In an interesting situation, the USDC for the District of Kansas ruled that the corporate attorney–client privilege protected emails between a university official and one of its in-house lawyers. And it was the in-house lawyer’s methodical, well-crafted affidavit that persuaded the court. Klaassen v. Atkinson, 2016 WL 3881334 (D. Kan. July 18, 2016). You may read the decision here.
The University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC) conducted a due-process hearing against a tenured medical professor for unprofessional behavior. A KUMC in-house lawyer served as the prosecutorial attorney, and Dr. Steven Stites ultimately issued a June 12, 2012 letter publicly censuring the physician for his conduct. More…
The 24-hour news cycle combined with the multitude of social-media sites, internet blogs, and similar non-traditional media outlets creates concerns for employers that go well beyond acute, crisis-management concerns. The internet media can exploit issues in what employers would beforehand consider routine employee disputes that they would handle internally and confidentially. And to complicate matters, traditional media such as newspapers and local television stations peruse these sites for content they can re-purpose and sensationalize for even larger audiences.
In my recent article, Privilege Protections for Media Strategies in Employee-Related Claims, published by Bloomberg BNA’s Daily Labor Report, I examine whether and how the attorney-client privilege can protect a lawyer’s PR-related communications with her client. For additional information, see this post, and this one, on related public-relations/privilege topics.
My thanks to Bloomberg BNA for publishing this article and allowing its reprint here.
In a decision that employers’ lawyers will find helpful, the California Court of Appeals ruled that the attorney–client privilege protects from discovery an outside counsel’s investigation into an employee’s allegations in an EEOC Charge. The privilege applied even though the lawyer’s engagement letter stated that she will do an “impartial investigation” and “will not render legal advice.” City of Petaluma v. Superior Court, 2016 WL 3568106 (Cal. Ct. App. June 8, 2016). You may read the decision here.
EEOC Charge & Counsel’s Engagement Letter
A female firefighter and paramedic filed an EEOC discrimination charge against the City of Petaluma asserting sexual harassment and retaliation claims. The City Attorney retained outside counsel to investigate the employee’s EEOC charge and assist in preparing him to defend the City in an anticipated lawsuit.
The outside counsel’s engagement letter with the City proved critical in the employee’s subsequent motion to compel her investigation report. The letter stated that the lawyer would conduct an impartial investigation and “interview witnesses, collect and review pertinent information, and report” that information to the City Attorney. More…