French Email Privacy Restrictions Not Always FRCP Obstruction


The two blog entries below point out some slightly different views of an interesting case about employee email privacy decided in France on Dec 15, 2009. The case was: Bruno B. vs. Giraud et Migot, Cour de Cassation, Chambre Sociale, Paris, 15 Dec. 2009, No. 07-44264

http://chrisdale.wordpress.com/2010/02/22/the-extent-of-te-right-to-privacy-in-french-employee%E2%80%99s-e-mails/

http://www.hhdataprotection.com/2010/02/articles/litigation/new-french-case-removes-automatic-privacy-shield-from-employee-emails-making-them-more-amenable-to-us-discovery/

From the Hogan & Hartson blog: The French high labor court (the Cour de Cassation Chambre Sociale) may have provided some grounds for arguing that a party in France can review a French employee’s e-mails and electronically stored information to determine whether the data is relevant to a U.S. litigation, without the employee’s knowledge or presence.  This is a significant development in the perennial tension between EU privacy law and U.S. discovery principles.

French employee privacy protection policies usually block U.S. FRCP eDiscovery requests that request French employee email for a case in the United States.  This case, on the face of it, seemed to set a precedent in the ruling saying the employer could review French employee email and ESI without the employees knowledge.

From the e-Disclosure Information Project Blog: There is no doubt, however, that many will use it as a reason to ignore everything they have heard about EU privacy. The case may well have implications for US litigants, but I do not think that a single Labour Court case in which an employee neglected to mark private e-mails as such will open the floodgates to FRCP discovery. It’s most likely consequence, I suspect, is that all French employees will start marking the e-mails” Private”, making it harder rather than easier to discriminate between those which are and those which are not genuinely private.

The bottom line for this case was this; the French employee’s email and ESI was searchable and reviewable without the employee’s approval or knowledge because the documents had not been marked as “Private” by the employee. My guess is that French employee committees will quickly instruct French employees on the proper marking of all emails and ESI as “Private”.

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