Home Appeals Court Finds Attorney-Client Privilege Doesn’t Cover Work Emails

Appeals Court Finds Attorney-Client Privilege Doesn’t Cover Work Emails

Attorney-client privilege does not extend to emails sent from a work email account, a California Court of Appeals has ruled. The unanimous decision was handed down by the Third Appellate District Court in Sacramento last week.

The court’s decision means that a company has a right to access any email sent via a company computer – so use caution, perhaps, when using your work email account to consult with an attorney about suing your employer. These emails, writes the court, “were akin to consulting her lawyer in her employer’s conference room, in a loud voice, with the door open, so that any reasonable person would expect that their discussion of her complaints about her employer would be overheard .”

There have been a number of important legal decisions recently about privacy and email. The New Jersey Supreme Court, for example, found that email sent from a personal web-based email account was private, provided that usage wasn’t covered by a company policy. But the U.S. Supreme Court found last summer that a police officer’s texts on department pagers were not private.

Last week’s decision involved a secretary who sued her employer for wrongful termination. Her employer introduced some of her emails between she and her attorney in the court case, arguing that her attorney had urged her to file the suit. She had appealed the decision, arguing the emails should not have been admissible in court.

The decision last week by the appeals court said that these emails were not confidential as her company had an explicit policy about company email, stating that it was for company business only and was not private.

Photo credits: Flickr user Brian Turner

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