Text Messages Provide Yet Another Type of Electronic Evidence

07/23/2009 / Molly Eichten and *Paul Haverstock

A soccer coach from Central Michigan University was fired after two female athletes alleged that he had sexually harassed them. This March, the University settled the harassment claim with the athletes for a little over $450,000. What evidence did the two young women have of the coach's alleged impropriety? Inappropriate text messages.

In 2008, four Famous Dave's waitresses in West Virginia used salacious text messages sent by their supervisor as evidence of his unwelcome advances in their sexual harassment case against both him and the restaurant. The World Wrestling Entertainment company (WWE) is also being sued for the conduct of one of its employees, who allegedly sexually harassed a coworker using text messages. Last October, a senior director at WWE allegedly texted and called a female employee repeatedly at night, seeking an intimate relationship. The case is currently before a federal court. Finally, on July 14, 2009, a former organizer for the Louisiana Democratic Party (LDP) filed a sexual harassment suit against both the state and the national Democratic Party. One of her allegations is that the former executive director of the LDP sent her suggestive text messages.

Just like e-mails and other kinds of electronic communication, text messages can be used as evidence in a lawsuit. Employers and businesses need to become increasingly aware of their potential liability for the various electronic activities of their employees.

-- Originally published in IP/Tech Buzz.

*Paul Haverstock is a J.D. candidate at the University of St. Thomas School of Law and is a 2009 summer law clerk at Larkin Hoffman.