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Don’t Email Your Attorney From Your Work Computer!

For years I have been advising people not to use their work computers to communicate with their attorneys.  Most companies reasonably expect you to use work equipment for work matters, not personal matters.  There are usually policies in the handbook that say the employer may monitor the employee’s emails and computer usage.  This means that if you email your attorney using a work computer the company may see the email.  A communication with the knowledge that others may or are likely to overhear the communication may not be privileged.

Well, a California court of appeals agrees with me.  In Holmes v. Petrovich Development (CA3 C059133 1/13/11) the court held that an employee’s emails sent to her attorney using the company’s computers were not privileged.  The company’s policies said 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.  The employee had been warned that the company would monitor its computers for compliance with the company policy and thus might “inspect all files and messages . . . at any time.” Also, the company had been explicitly advised employees 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.”

Based on this information the court likened the issue to an employee meeting with her attorney at the company’s offices with the door open and speaking in loud voices.

This is not to say that email communications, just from the nature of how emails are sent and the fact that “persons involved in the delivery, facilitation, or storage of electronic communication may have access to the content of the communication,” cannot be privileged.  It simply means that you should not use work emails to send confidential communications to your attorneys unless you want to run the risk that the company may read those emails.

The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
95 South Market Street, Suite 520
San Jose, CA 95113
Tel. 408-293-6341
Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman, former associate of The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.

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Phillip J. Griego represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.