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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Facebook Post Threatening Witnesses Costs Poster $17,000 in Sanctions

In a recent lawsuit that alleged employment discrimination and retaliation against a government employer, the court ordered the plaintiff to pay just under $17,000 in sanctions for posting threats on Facebook targeted at potential witnesses in her lawsuit. Emerson v. Dart, (7th Cir. Aug. 14, 2018).

Emerson, a correctional officer in Cook County, Illinois, filed a lawsuit against the County alleging retaliation in violation of her civil rights suit. The case proceeded to discovery. Shortly after learning the County was questioning co-workers as potential witnesses, she posted to a Facebook group shared by more than 1,600 employees of the Cook County Department of Corrections the following:
To my fellow officers! DON’T GET IN A FIGHT THAT IS NOT, I REPEAT THAT IS NOT YOURS. I’VE JUST RECEIVED THE NAMES OF SOME PEOPLE THAT THE COUNTY IS ATTEMPTING TO USE AS WITNESSES, (1) IS A SGT, (2) OFFICERS, (1) OPR INVESTIGATOR, on the job 18mths, this fight is from 2009 & I’ve been off since 2012, sooooo do the math. Yes, I will definitely put your name out there in due time [emoji]. This is a PSA for those of you still believing that being a liar, brown noser will get you something. MESSING WITH ME WILL GET YOU YOUR OWN CERTIFIED MAIL. SO GLAD THAT THE ARROGANCE OF THIS EMPLOYER HAS THEM BELIEVING THEIR OWN [emoji]
The County asked the judge for sanctions against Emerson for witness tampering. The circuit court  ruled in the County's favor and ordered Emerson to pay just short of $17,000 in sanctions to the County (the amount the County incurred in attorneys' fees relating to the misconduct). 

On appeal, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the sanctions award, finding Emerson's Facebook post to be a "bald effort to keep witnesses from testifying." The appellate court also upheld the amount of the sanction, finding the County's report of time spent litigating the sanctions issue to be acceptable.

Facebook may be "free," but that doesn't mean certain conduct on Facebook won't cost you.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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