In Maryland, labor unions join the protected ranks of doctors and lawyers with respect to confidentiality privileges. In early May, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed Big Labor’s new special privilege into law. It extends protection from compulsory disclosure to unions and their members. Only similarly pro-union Illinois has given unions the controversial protected status that may conflict with federal labor law.
The legislation gives evidentiary protection to communications between union representatives and union members, meaning neither can be compelled to disclose information pertinent to an employer’s investigation or grievance proceeding. The right of refusal hampers the possibilities of employers and employees resolving disputes before costly and time-consuming litigation or arbitration.
Labor law attorney representing the Maryland Chamber of Commerce Gary Simpler commented, “There could be instances where the union does have access to information that they’ve obtained from the [employee] that would be important in helping the employer make an informed decision… if they had information they might have made a different decision or resolved the case much quicker than when they only learned about the information at the hearing.”