Company Policy Trumps Privilege

We tend to think of the attorney client privilege as pretty close to absolute. Not to blatantly steal an advertising line from the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce or anything, but what’s said in my office stays in my office. But there are limits, as this recent California case reminds us. In Holmes v. Petrovich Dev. Co., the California Court of Appeals ruled that an employee could not claim e-mails sent to her attorney were covered by the privilege when she sent those e-mails via her work computer. Her company had a policy that prohibited using the company’s e-mail system for personal messages, and which gave the company the right to monitor the e-mails. It’s a tough result for Ms. Holmes, but it’s a reminder for employees. That computer use policy that you probably only glanced at actually has some meaning. And you might want to check it before you send an e-mail that you’d rather keep private.