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Joseph, Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 5299
Experience:  Extensive experience representing employees and management
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I work for a Calofornia Community College. I sent a private

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I work for a Calofornia Community College. I sent a private email to our union representative, another faculty member on campus. She took this message and forwarded it, without permission, to another full-time faculty member. In turn, this second faculty member forwarded my private conversation to the entire campus list serve. Do I have legal grounds for litigation?
Hello and welcome to JustAnswer.

I'm sorry to hear about your situation and hope I can help.

My goal is to provide you with excellent service today.

Are you asking if you have grounds for litigation against the faculty members who forwarded the messages?

Can you tell me what the email stated, and whether you specifically mentioned that you wanted it confidential?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I did not specifically say I wanted it to be confidential. However, I only included the one faculty member in my message. Is not saying, "I don't want this shared" trump the fact I didn't send it to anybody else? And, do I not have legal protection from the entire campus receiving the communication?


And, yes, I would be seeking litigation against the specific faculty members.





Hello Jason,

Can you tell me the nature of the email that you sent? Did it contain any private information about you?

Also, can you tell me if you sent it from your work email or a personal email account?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi, Joseph,


The email was sent for a work email. There has been a heated email chain and debate (which I have) about a new campus policy involving office windows. As a member of the safety committee, I had engaged publicly in the thread to try to quell some of the negativity. Our local union representative, that started the public email chain, emailed me privately, accusing me of being pro-administration, and, by default, anti-faculty. I responded back to her, privately. There were two more private emails after that. Later, another colleague she forwarded our private conversation to not only included the confirmation that this private email had been forwarded by the rep (in the email details), but then this second faculty member forwarded the private conversation to every member on the list serve.


It didn't contain private personal email information, but it did contain my personal point of view on the matter, which, now shared publicly, has caused even more of a reaction directly upon me (in subsequent emails).



Hello Jason,

I’m afraid that you do not have the basis for a cause of action against these two faculty members for forwarding your email without your authorization. Unless the information was meant to be personal and confidential, and protected by a legal duty of confidentiality (such as one that exists between attorneys and clients), it is not illegal for a colleague to forward your email to the entire listserv.

If it were an email to your attorney or accountant, it would be another matter. (Or if the email contained information about your bank accounts, social security number, etc.). But there’s no legal expectation of privacy and confidentiality in an email to a union representative.

Had the faculty members alleged that you mad e statements that you didn’t make, you would have a cause of action for defamation, but I’m afraid it’s not illegal for someone to forward an email of yours to others without your prior consent. (Imagine, if this were the case, there would be a LOT of litigation).

In the future, I would suggest that you be more cautious about what you write in emails, as every email (that isn't protected by a legal duty of confidentiality) can be forwarded without your prior consent.

I realize the above information is not what you wanted to hear and I sincerely XXXXX XXXXX had better news to give you, but I hope you appreciate an honest and direct answer to your question. It would be unprofessional of me and unfair to you to provide you with anything less.

Please let me know if you have any follow up or clarifying questions.

If not please remember to rate my answer positively so I get credit for my work.

Thanks and best of luck!
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