Chicago Federal Judge Orders
Employer's Attorneys to Turn over
Sexual Harassment Investigation Info
Magistrate Judge Schenkier this week rejected Jewel Food's argument that the EEOC was not entitled to the names and the comments of store employees who were interviewed by legal counsel. EEOC v. Jewel Food Stores, No. 04 C 8139
Many attorneys, and their clients, assume that information gathered by counsel in anticipation of litigation is privileged as work product because such information would disclose the mental impressions, impressions or strategies of the attorney. Judge Schenkier distinguished mental impressions from purely factual information, and found that the EEOC's interrogatories seeking the names and comments of employees the lawyers had talked to should be answered.
Using lawyers to investigate is an indispensable step to take if a lawsuit becomes a probability. But never assume that purely factual information gathered by your lawyers is protected from disclosure.
The court wrote that competent counsel routinely obtain information from witness interviews and can answer interrogatories without revealing "mental processes, impressions, and strategies."