AB 418: Evidentiary privileges: union agent-represented worker privilege

When employees discuss issues affecting their employment with their union representative, such as those involving workplace discipline or grievance-related issues, most assume that such communications are confidential, and that information may not be disclosed to the employer or other third parties. However, no state statute provides such communications with an evidentiary privilege, undermining the value of an employee’s right to union representation. Under current law, an employer or other litigant can subpoena internal union documents during discovery.

AFSCME, SEIU, and the California Labor Federation co-sponsored AB 418 (Kalra) to establish an evidentiary privilege between union representatives and employees. Privileges protect certain communications from disclosure to opposing parties in legal proceedings. The reasoning behind privilege is that although certain information may be relevant, it is nonetheless excluded because of overriding social interests. In the case of unions, a privilege would protect against employer groups who want insider information on strategy that is critical to protecting employees. The evidentiary privilege established by AB 418 is necessary to facilitating labor relations that are equitable for employers and employees.

After passing the Assembly and the Senate Judiciary committee, the bill was placed on the inactive file on September 12, 2019 and is now a two-year bill. It may be acted upon in January 2020. AFSCME will continue to work toward adopting this privilege to ensure equitable protection in the workplace.