Holmes v. Petrovich Dev. Co., 191 Cal. App. 4th 1047 (2011)

Gina Holmes sued her employer for harassment based on pregnancy, retaliation, constructive discharge, violation of the right to privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial court granted summary adjudication to the defendants with respect to the claims for harassment, retaliation and constructive discharge, and a jury decided against Holmes with respect to the claims for invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment in favor of the employer, concluding there was “an absence of evidence from which a reasonable jury could objectively find that Petrovich created a hostile work environment for a reasonable pregnant woman.” The Court also concluded there was not sufficient evidence of constructive discharge or retaliation. Finally, the Court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying Holmes’ motion in limine to prevent defendants from introducing at trial emails that she had sent to her attorney on the company’s computer. Noting that Holmes had used her employer’s email account to communicate with her attorney after she was warned that it was to be used only for company business and that emails were not private, the Court affirmed that Holmes had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the emails she sent to her attorney any more than she would have if she were “consulting her attorney in her employer’s conference room, in a loud voice, with the door open, so that any reasonable person would expect that [her] discussion of her complaints about her employer would be overheard by him.” See also People v. Nazary, 191 Cal. App. 4th 727 (2011) (videotape from a hidden camera of employee being confronted by management for suspected embezzlement and theft were properly shown to the jury because employee “could reasonably expect that [the confrontation] might be overheard or recorded”).