A New Jersey court has held that e-mails employees send to their attorneys via work computers are not protected by the attorney-client privilege.
Attorney-client privilege is one of the most well-established rights to confidentiality. The court’s willingness to rule that an employer’s right to control how employees use its computer equipment trumps attorney-client privilege is significant. The decision makes it clearer than ever that employers should carefully consider the language they use in their employee handbooks.
Where did it come from?
Maria Stengart, the plaintiff in Stengart v. Loving Care Agency (Docket No. BER-L-858-08, N.J. Super. Law Div., 2009), resigned from her management position in late 2007. She soon filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging she was constructively discharged as the result of a hostile work environment.
Before resigning, Stengart had exchanged e-mails with her attorney using her company-issued laptop computer. She did not, however, send the e-mails through her company e-mail address. Instead, she transmitted them from her personal Yahoo.com e-mail account, which she maintained and used sporadically during business hours. Yahoo e-mail accounts are web-based, with no software to download, and are password protected.
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Source: Business Management Daily
By: Sandro Polledri