Self Help: The Risks of Copying Documents to Support Your Discrimination Claim

Employment Attorneys Serving Northern and Central New Jersey

Image of person using a computerMany potential clients enter our office to pursue their claims of discrimination with stacks of documents that they think support their cases. Some of these documents are merely their own performance evaluations or company policies that they were given to them at the start of their employment. However, sometimes, clients bring us copies of emails, company financial information, or other employees’ performance evaluations that they helped themselves to when they still had access to their employers’ documents. This always begs the question, “was their self-help legal?”

Self-help copying of documents is always a risk. While copying your employers documents to support a lawsuit could lead to a substantial reward, it could also land you in jail.​

Is It Legal or Illegal To Copy Your Employer’s Documents?​

When determining the legality of copying workplace documents in support of a workplace discrimination claim, courts consider a number of pertinent factors, such as:​

  • Factor One: How did the employee come into possession or gain access to the document? Was it accidental or in the course of their job duties? Or did they rummage through files or snoop around offices for documents?
  • Factor Two: What did the employee do with the document? Did they show it to their attorney or did they share it with the entire company?
  • Factor Three: How interested is the employer in keeping the document confidential? Does it contain trade secrets or Social Security numbers or confidential medical information?
  • Factor Four: Is there a company policy or employment contract on privacy or confidentiality that was violated by taking these documents?
  • Factor Five: How relevant is the document to the employee’s claim as compared to the disruptiveness caused to the business by taking and using the document?
  • Factor Six: Why did the employee copy the document instead of simply describing them to their attorney?
  • Factor Seven: This factor tells courts to examine two important considerations: the “broad remedial purpose” of New Jersey’s laws to end discrimination and the effect that allowing or prohibiting the use of a document would have on the rights of employers and employees.

Basically, if you see a document in the course of your job duties, it is relevant to your case, and it does not contain confidential, personal information (e.g. medical information or Social Security numbers), then you are probably okay to make a copy. However , if you believe an employer’s  document  cannot be legally copied, but may support your discrimination claim, write down the type, date, and subject of the document, as well as the document’s sender and receiver, and where you viewed it. This information will enable our employment attorneys to request the document during our initial discovery work. If your employer does not produce the specified document, it may infer that he or she is trying to hide or suppress evidence.​

Call Green Savits, LLC for a Complimentary Consultation​

If you are facing workplace discrimination in New Jersey, contact Green Savits, LLC today online or at (973) 695-7777 to discuss your case for free with an experienced attorney.  We are passionate about helping workers obtain the justice they deserve.