Communications between “Work Spouses” Ruled Confidential in Massachusetts

The Supreme Judicial Court here in Massachusetts has recently ruled to acknowledge the workplace relationship they have titled the “work spouse”. A “work spouse” is not your actual spouse who happens to work with you, but rather an individual to whom they divulge information with the trust and understanding that such information will confidential between the two of them.

The ruling came down on a case involving an anonymous intra-workplace accusation that the plaintiff in the case embezzled from the office March Madness pool. The plaintiff sued the defendant, whom he believed was behind the anonymous accusation, for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The plaintiff then sought to depose a co-worker who the plaintiff knew had a close relationship with the defendant to discover whether the defendant had admitted to this co-worker that she was behind the accusation. The co-worker objected to the deposition on the grounds that he and the defendant were “work spouses” whose conversations were privileged because they both had intended for those conversations to remain in confidence.

The Supreme Judicial Court agreed, finding that many employees have a workplace confidant with whom they share confidential information that is not to be repeated outside of the relationship, and as a result ruled that such “work spouse” communications were privileged from disclosure unless both parties agreed to waive the privilege — not unlike the privilege enjoyed by married spouses, hence the term.