Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Employment Action Redaction

The Blog of Legal Times has an interesting story regarding an employment discrimination action against a law firm. However, it's not the case itself that's interesting, it's a side isssue: redaction. Wow, I never thought I'd be writing a post on the fascinating world of redaction, but here goes...

The Court granted summary judgment but the opinion was sealed. An accompanying Order directed the parties to:
[M]eet and confer in an effort to provide the Court with a joint proposed redacted version of the accompanying Memorandum Opinion appropriate for public viewing.
Why? Well, apparently a huge issue in the case was whether specific employees were paid more than certain other employees (a common theme in discrimination cases). It turns out, the Plaintiff may have had some faulty information, but let's focus on the redactions.

So, what will be redacted? The Court's Order cautioned the parties of the "strong presumption in favor of public access to judicial records." Indeed, it's extremely important that the public know what the courts are doing. But, we can look at the Defendant's Summary Judgment Brief to get an idea of what might be redacted from the opinion. The Brief contains a lot of discussion of third party employees (i.e. not the allegedly discriminating employers, nor the Plaintiff employee). So, the employer redacted the names and salary information of people not directly involved in the lawsuit.

We'll see what the Court ultimately redacts. But, redacting the names and salary information can protect the privacy of people who are not parties while still giving the public access to the Court's rationale for granting summary judgment. Parties should also look to their local rules. For example, Middle District of Pennsylvania Local Rule 5.2 requires parties to redact (with certain exceptions): Social Security Numbers, Names of Children, Dates of Birth, Financial Account Numbers, and Home Addresses.

Posted by Philip Miles, an attorney with McQuaide Blasko in State College, Pennsylvania in the firm's civil litigation and labor and employment law practice groups.