California Appellate Court Rejects Employer’s Claim of Attorney-Client Privilege in Discovery Dispute Related to Sexual Discrimination Claim.

For individuals in California or elsewhere who believe they have been victims of sexual harassment or discrimination, pursuing these claims against a large multinational corporation can be a daunting task. A California woman recently sought relief from the California Court of Appeals to proceed with her claims of sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation based on the conduct of the employer and management while she worked with the defendant.

The Alleged Harassment and Discrimination

According to the facts discussed in the recently published opinion, the appellant was a senior marketing manager for the defendant company. She alleges she faced sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and retaliation starting in 2012. Her initial supervisor made her uncomfortable by following her around the office. Later, while working internationally, her new supervisors engaged in unwanted sexual conduct, creating a hostile work environment, and unfairly targeted her by gathering personal information and reprimanding her. After raising compliance issues, she claims these supervisors retaliated by restricting her budget, ridiculing her, and sabotaging her job opportunities. Following her termination at the end of 2018, she sued the company and her supervisors for discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, labor code violations, and negligent hiring and supervision.

The Discovery Dispute and Attorney-Client Privilege

After filing her lawsuit, the appellant requested evidence from her employer related to internal investigations into her claims that were performed by an attorney hired by the defendant company to evaluate the claims. The company rejected her request, citing attorney-client privilege in refusing to turn over the documents. The trial court agreed with the company and prevented the woman from obtaining the evidence, seriously hampering her case. The woman appealed the ruling to the California Court of Appeals, arguing that the challenged documents were not protected by attorney-client privilege.

The Appellate Ruling and Disposition

The appellate Court found that although there was an attorney-client privilege between the company and the hired attorney, the company was not protected from disclosing the challenged evidence because it had waived attorney-client privilege by placing the investigations directly at issue through its defense. The company claimed it had policies and procedures to promptly prevent and correct inappropriate conduct, and accused the plaintiff of failing to utilize these mechanisms. This defense inherently involves the adequacy of the attorney’s investigations, making them central to the case. The company’s response to discovery requests emphasized the thoroughness of these investigations, further integrating them into its defense strategy. Thus, fairness dictates that the plaintiff be allowed access to these reports and related materials to challenge the company’s claims, overriding the privilege and ensuring a fair adjudication of the dispute.

Finding An Employment Attorney Who Isn’t Afraid to Stand up to Large Corporations

If you or a loved one has been harassed or discriminated against at work, you are entitled to challenge how you have been treated. Federal and California laws protect employees from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, and these statutes have been used to support tens of thousands of employees who have been treated improperly. If you have questions about your case, the experienced California employment law attorneys with the Nourmand Law Firm can help. Our lawyers have successfully argued hundreds of California employment law claims, including discrimination and retaliation claims. We take cases on a contingency basis, meaning if we don’t collect a judgment, you don’t need to pay our fees. For a free, no-obligation consultation with a California employment law attorney, call 310-553-3600 today.



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