Thursday, April 12, 2012

Employer Wins, then Loses, Right to Search Employee's Home Computer for Porn - COTW #87

In In Re Jordan, 2012 WL 1098275 (Tex. App. 2012), a woman sued her former employer claiming "that she was subjected to a sexually hostile work environment and was fired for reporting it." Specifically, she claimed that she saw "sexually graphic content" on computers at work and it was oh-so-offensive to her. Why was it soooo, offensive? Because she had never seen porn in her entire life until she started working there.

The employer wasn't convinced so it sought some discovery. In particular, the employer wanted a forensic computer examiner to check out the employee's home computer for signs of porn in her Internet history and email. Mission accomplished! - the trial court granted just such an order.

Not so fast! The appeals court reversed (technically, it threatened the trial court with a writ of mandamus if it didn't vacate), holding that the employer was required to set forth its search methodology and the examiner's credentials. The trial court should also have considered a protective order and been "sensitive to the highly intrusive nature of computer storage search."

HT: Internet Cases - and Heather Bussing via colorful tweet.