Licensed Translators and Interpreters, Translation for Attorneys, and Using Social Media Evidence to Impeach a Witness

We’ve blogged about multilingual professional translation services and the process of admitting foreign language information found in the social media into evidence. We also blogged about translation of international e-Discovery documents.

Social media sites may contain contradictory statements, character evidence, or other evidence that can be used to impeach witnesses during litigation. For example, in Mai-Trang Thi Nguyen v. Starbucks Coffee Corp., 2009 WL 4730899 (N.D. Cal. 2009), a Starbucks employee was fired for inappropriate conduct and threatening violence to fellow employees. The employee then sued Starbucks for sexual harassment, religious discrimination, and retaliation. The employee’s MySpace page was submitted as evidence by Starbucks, where plaintiff stated: “Starbucks is in deep s**t with GOD!!! …I will now have 2 to turn 2 my revenge side (GOD’S REVENGE SIDE) 2 teach da world a lesson about stepping on GOD. I thank GOD 4 pot 2 calm down my frustrations and worries or else I will go beserk and shoot everyone….” Based on the evidence submitted by Starbucks, the court granted summary judgment in its favor.

Needless to say, social media users often fail to consider the consequences of their postings. This is a major concern in the corporate world, where postings could be made by employees regarding a wide range of work-related issues, including comments concerning layoffs that implicate the Age Discrimination and Employment Act, disclosures of intellectual property and trade secrets in various career-oriented chat rooms or blogs, and gossip about a sexual harassment or white collar crime internal investigation.

For this reason, it is imperative that a company’s managers, supervisors, and employees are educated on the implications and discoverability of such postings so that their use of social media does not undermine legal positions in a future or pending lawsuit against the company. As always, all policies communicated to employees should include a foreign language translation, as these policies are technically part of their work contract.

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