May 27, 2015

Law Journal Article Updates Quest for Ombuds Privilege

The latest issue of the Hofstra Labor and Employment Law Journal includes an article titled: "The Organizational Ombudman’s Quest for Privileged Communications." Written by Kendall D. Isaac, a former professor at Appalachian School of Law and currently Chief HR Officer with Darton State College, the article explores the current state of the Ombuds confidentiality privilege; compares and contrasts the Ombuds role with mediation, HR, and governmental Ombuds; and offers ideas on improving the chances of arguing for a privilege in court.

Here's the abstract:
The role of organizational ombudsman has grown tremendously in the past couple of decades. Organizations have come to rely upon their ombuds offices to provide value-added dispute resolution services aimed at improving the corporate ethical and cultural environment while simultaneously staving off unwanted turnover and potential litigation from disgruntled employees. While employees have enjoyed ‘being heard’ by their ombudsman, the ombudsmen have struggled to keep the information they have heard confidential and away from the public forum via subsequent litigation and motions to compel them to disclose this information. This article explores the current state of the ombudsman confidentiality privilege, compares and contrasts the organizational ombudsman role with mediation, human resources, and its governmental ombudsman counterpart, and offers ideas on how to improve the chances of getting a court to acknowledge such a privilege.
Isaac argues that Ombuds should give serious consideration to: 1. Visitor confidentiality agreements (which may be considered favorably by courts); and 2. Funding Ombuds offices through employee assessments (which would demonstrate true independence).  (SSRN; Hofstra LELJ.)

Related posts: Workplace Dignity Blog: Long Live the Ombudsperson!; Interview with Appalachian State's New Ombuds; Law Review Article Lays Out Justification for Ombuds Privilege.

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