Communications with employment attorneys are generally confidential. Emails communications are generally confidential. However, beware of these overgeneralizations! If you are an employee with concerns about your employer, and are using your work email on your employer’s computer to consult a lawyer, that may NOT be confidential!
In this case, Holmes v. Petrovich Development Co., LLC, , 191 Cal.App.4th 1047 (2011), Ms. Holmes emailed a lawyer about her claims of pregnancy discrimination from her employer’s computer, using her work email account, after signing a handbook acknowledging that the employer maintains the right to monitor all electronic communications including computers, which are to be used only for work purposes.
When Ms. Holmes claimed that her communications with the lawyer were confidential, the Court of Appeals practically railed that, “the e-mails sent via company computer under the circumstances of this case 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 by him.” The court concluded that there was no reasonable expectation of privacy here, and thus the employer could read and use as evidence in the lawsuit, such communications.