Can a lawyer give a copy of employee’s written complaint to the person that they complained about?

I am aware of a situation where several employees filed written complaints against their supervisor. An attorney for the institution gave copies of each letter to the accused. By doing this, the accused now knows exactly what was said about them and who said it. Seems to me this is unethical and possibly against the law as well for the lawyer to do this. If illegal, what laws does this break?

Thank You

Asked on May 18, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

It is 100% legal, unless--and only if--prior to employees turning in the written complaints, the company had executed or signed some document or agreement agreeing to keep them confidential. Otherwise, in the absence of a confidentiality agreement of some kind, it is perfectly legal to give the complaints to anyone, even the accused.
It is also not unethical: the company lawyer works for the *company*, not the complaining employees, and his/her duty is to the company. If the lawyer feels that turning the complaints over to the accused for the accused to review and respond to them is the best way to proceed for the company's benefit, that is not unethical.

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