(CN) – Sandals Resorts cannot force Google to turn over information that could identify a person who sent an anonymous e-mail claiming that Sandals hired Jamaicans only for menial positions.
Writing under the name John Anthony, the e-mailer claimed that Sandals accepts subsidies from the Jamaican government, yet natives are relegated to menial jobs while management positions are reserved for non-Jamaicans.
The trial court rejected Sandals’ bid for pre-action discovery regarding the e-mail, which contains gaps in its content but links to a pair of articles from the Jamaica Observer titled “Sandals Sweeps World Travel Awards in London” and “Butch Stewart Superstar!” about the founder of the resort company.
John Anthony interspersed the e-mail with comments such as “Making beds – massages – Jamaican jobs!”, “Look at this great job that went to a foreigner” and “I am guesstimating that the salary for this job is over $150,000 annually. No Jamaican need apply?”
Sandals asked the court for “all information concerning the Google account,” including “all e-mail, instant messages, text messages, buddy lists, address books, contact lists” and more.
On appeal, the Manhattan-based first department of New York’s appellate division affirmed the order denying Sandals’ petition.
“Initially, we observe that nothing in the petition identifies specific assertions of fact as false,” Justice David Saxe wrote for the court. “That is, there is nothing in the petition contradicting the e-mail’s claim that Sandals offers only menial jobs to native Jamaicans of African heritage.”
“Even were we to find that the petition sufficiently alleged that the subject e-mail injured Sandals’ business reputation or damaged its credit standing, we still would deny the application for disclosure of the account holder’s identification on the ground that the subject e-mail is constitutionally protected opinion,” Saxe added.