Glassdoor has found itself in hot water after a California judge ordered it to reveal the identities of users that posted negative reviews against toy company Zuru.
District court judge Alex Tse ruled in favour of Zuru to compel the employer-rating site to provide the users’ identities. Once obtained, the toymaker plans to use the information to file defamation complaints against the reviewers in New Zealand.
Glassdoor members use the website to post anonymous reviews of companies, whether it's their current or former employer. The platform also serves as a valuable resource for workers looking to find employment.
Zuru vs Glassdoor reviewers
The conflict between Zuru and the Glassdoor users began after several of them anonymously left scathing reviews directed at the toy company.
Some of the posts referred to Zuru as a “[b]urn out factory” with a “toxic culture”. Others criticised the toymaker for allegedly having an “incompetent” management team that “consistently talk[s] down” to workers and treats them like “dirt”.
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Commenting on the Glassdoor reviews, Judge Tse said that statements made Zuru “sound like a horrible place to work”.
Zuru vehemently denied the reviewers' accusations. However, the negative attention that the comments have brought cost the company financially.
The toymaker claimed that they “had to expend money, time, and resources in combating the negative publicity, negative perception, and harm to [Zuru’s] reputation that the [r]eviews have caused”.
Zuru has since begun pursuing a defamation suit against the Glassdoor reviewers in New Zealand, where the company was founded. The country is also where the reviewers allegedly worked.
New Zealand’s defamation laws
In his ruling, Judge Tse decided that New Zealand’s defamation laws are relevant to Zuru’s complaint. He ordered Glassdoor to provide the necessary information regarding the reviewers identities.
Unlike in the US – where people enjoy greater protection for free speech – New Zealand enforces stricter laws for defamation.
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“There’s good reason to tread lightly in applying US free-speech principles abroad,” Judge Tse said. “Our country’s commitment to free speech isn’t universally shared; and even in other countries that protect free speech, a different balance is often struck between the right to free speech and the right to protect one’s reputation.”
“Glassdoor wants to safeguard anonymous speech on its website. Zuru wants to protect its reputation. Both interests can’t simultaneously be accommodated,” Judge Tse added.