An MGM Grand Detroit LLC valet attendant suing about alleged job bias must show the resorts giant some of his Facebook and other social media as part of discovery in the case, a federal judge ruled.
Prince Robinson’s personal Facebook, Google Photo, and Google location information is relevant to whether he might have abused his right to leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan said Jan. 17, upholding a magistrate judge’s ruling.
The magistrate said the information also is relevant to Robinson’s alleged disability, claim for emotional distress damages, and efforts to limit his lost wages resulting from the MGM Grand Detroit’s alleged discrimination.
Robinson sued in September 2017. He alleged his direct supervisor subjected him to “an unworkable and unprofessional environment” of sex- and color-based harassment for more than 10 years that culminated in his discharge.. The supervisor and other female managers also retaliated when he complained about them to his union and for exercising his FMLA and Americans with Disabilities Act rights, he alleges.
Robinson pointed to a personal injury case in support of his argument that his Facebook information was shielded from discovery. That case wasn’t similar to Robinson’s situation, Judge George Caram Steeh said. MGM Grand limited the scope of its discovery request to the period Robinson says he needed FMLA leave and was unable to work. The company also backed the request with records showing Robinson might have been hitting the gym while he was on FMLA leave, the judge said.
Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions on when a warrant is needed before searching the digital contents of a criminal suspect’s cell phone weren’t applicable, Steeh said. “These cases are irrelevant to the question of what information is discoverable in civil cases where a plaintiff or defendant often makes his social media activity relevant to the case,” he said.
The magistrate also didn’t err in requiring Robinson to pay MGM Grand the attorneys’ fees and costs it incurred in asking the court to fork over his social media information, the court said. Such a sanction typically is mandatory under federal rules where a party refuses to provide relevant discovery, it said.
Carla D. Aikens P.C. represents Robinson. Butzel Long represents MGM Grand Detroit.
The case is Robinson v. MGM Grand Detroit, LLC, 2019 BL 16365, E.D. Mich., No. 17-CV-13128, 1/17/19.