In an employer-friendly decision yesterday, the California Court of Appeal upheld the granting of summary judgment in a sexual harassment, retaliation, and constructive discharge (pregnancy discrimination) lawsuit. In the decision, the Court discussed whether or not emails sent from the employee to her attorney from her company computer were privileged. The court held:

“Among other things, we conclude that e-mails sent by Holmes to her attorney regarding possible legal action against defendants did not constitute ‘confidential communication between client and lawyer’ within the meaning of Evidence Code section 952. This is so because Holmes used a computer of defendant company to send the e-mails even though (1) she had been told of the company’s policy that its computers were to be used only for company business and that employees were prohibited from using them to send or receive personal e-mail, (2) she had been warned that the company would monitor its computers for compliance with this company policy and thus might ‘inspect all files and messages… at any time,’ and (3) she had been explicitly advised that employees using company computers to create or maintain personal information or messages ‘have no right of privacy with respect to that information or message.'”

In addition, in evaluating several somewhat insensitive emails from Ms. Holmes’ supervisor, the Court determined that they did not create a hostile work environment, noting that: “When viewed in context, the e-mails (set forth at length, ante) show nothing more than that Petrovich made some critical comments due to the stress of being a small business owner who must accommodate a pregnant woman’s right to maternity leave. He recognized Holmes’s legal rights, stated he would honor them, said he was not asking for her resignation, noted he had been pleased with her work, and simply expressed his feelings as a ‘human in a tough business where people are constantly trying to take advantage of me.'”

Click here to read the full decision.

Keesal, Young & Logan Employment Group

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