Personal Injury Law
My Information is Private and Sensitive! Can I Share My Experience With an Attorney in Confidence Even Though I Don’t Have a Signed Agreement?
Absolutely, yes. The general rule is that even though you may not have a contract with an attorney, everything you tell them is confidential. Sometimes people call with facts that are humiliating and tear jerking. Here in the Bay Area, we commonly discuss and witness vicious acts of racism, sexual harassment, sexual assault, whistleblower retaliation, wage theft and many forms of adverse employment actions, such as a demotion or termination in response to a reporting disability discrimination.
When you call Spencer Young Law, everything you tell us is confidential, even if you are speaking to a non-lawyer, such as a secretary, case assistant, or paralegal. We are not allowed to share your information without your permission. This protection is broad and extends to your spouse, your employer or even another attorney. The main exception to this is when a client reveals information that substantial bodily harm or death is imminent. Here are some examples of how confidentiality works in California employment law situations.
Example 1: Joan works at a local bar call Sleazy. Joan calls Spencer Young Law to talk about sexual assault and sexual harassment in “uptown” Oakland, California. Her boss and manager, Slime Ball, consistently makes comments about her breast size and says she’s “thick”. Joan repeatedly ignores these advances. One day, Slime Ball drinks too much and starts groping her. Slime Ball follows Joan to the bathroom and pushes her up against a wall, grabs her breast and says, “I know you want it, stop playing hard to get.” Joan later Googles “employment lawyer Oakland” and tells us the story. Everything she says is confidential. She meets with us and takes our business card. It falls out of her pocket at work. Slime Ball calls our office to see if Joan called us. By law, we may NOT share anything Joan told us.
Example 2: Joan reports Slime Ball to the Sleazy Owner. Sleazy Owner says Slime Ball wouldn’t do this and ignores her. He fails to investigate the harassment. A few days later, Sleazy Owner starts telling Joan that Slime Ball thinks she’s rude to customers. When Joan asks what the customer said, Sleazy Owner says, “I can’t remember their name. You were late last week too. Here’s your final check. Your fired.” Joan calls Spencer Young Law again and learns she has a retaliation and wrongful termination claim against Sleazy, Inc., Sleazy Owner and Slime Ball. She also learns she has a sexual assault and battery claim against Slime Ball personally.
Example 3: Joan’s husband, Hella Mad, randomly calls Spencer Young because he’s furious his wife got attacked. Hella Mad asks Spencer what Joan said to him on the phone. Spencer replies, “I can’t reveal that information until I have written authorization from Joan.” Joan calls Spencer and says she wants her husband Hella Mad included in the discussions. Spencer is now allowed to share information Joan consents to.
Example 4: Instead of Joan calling Spencer Young Law about employment lawsuit opportunity, Joan decides to take matters into her own hands. She gets Hella Mad’s gun and goes to Sleazy. She has second thoughts about killing Slime Ball and Sleazy Owner because Spencer said she had a strong case. Joan calls Spencer Young and says what she’s about to do, “I’m gonna kill these @$#%#!”. Pursuant to California State Bar Rule of Professional Conduct 3-100, Spencer tries to dissuade her from physically attacking her oppressors. After a few minutes, Joan calms down and agrees that a lawsuit for wrongful termination is the best course of action. IF Joan had said she was going to shoot Slime Ball and maim Sleazy Owner despite the attorney’s advice to stand down, Spencer Young likely would have to call the police. This is one of the only scenarios where attorney-client privileged communications can be shared. Only the information that needs to be shared to stop the harm can be communicated to the police.
Example 5: Jeff calls Spencer Young Law about his severance offer from his employer, an employment law and personal injury law firm in San Francisco. Jeff plans on working for a competitor, an employment law and wrongful death firm in Berkeley, California because he wants to work on trucking accident cases. Jeff is concerned about the terms of the severance offer. Spencer Young reviews the severance agreement and advises him of his rights over the phone and Zoom. Two weeks later, Spencer Young is invited to a party at the firm in Berkeley. Jeff and Spencer meet face to face for the first time. A lawyer asks Spencer, do you know Jeff? Spencer responds, “Yes.” The next question to Spencer is “How do you know Jeff.” Spencer Young responds, “Thanks for asking but I can’t answer that at this time.” Spencer Young owes a duty of confidentiality to Jeff that only he can waive. Jeff introduces Spencer to Berkeley lawyer and says, “Spencer Young helped me review my severance offer from the San Francisco law firm I used to work at.” All three of them drink margaritas while talking about how stressful and satisfying their jobs are.
If you have sensitive questions about employment or personal injury law in the Bay Area, trust the staff at Spencer Young Law in Oakland to keep your private information confidential whether you hire us or not.