The $40 million lawsuit filed by Ian Jack Miller against Spanish fast fashion giant, Zara, is proving to be rather ugly. Miller, the former general counsel for Zara USA, filed suit against Zara, and Zara USA Inc.’s Country Manager Dilip Patel and ex-CEO Moises Costas Rodriguez in June in New York Supreme Court (a state-level trial court), alleging that he was subjected to widespread bias and harassment, and subsequently retaliated against, in violation of New York state and city laws. In particular, Miller alleged in his complaint that executives at the company sent him emails containing images of penises and used Yiddish words such as “oy” and “schlep” after learning that he was gay and Jewish.
Well, as of this past week, Miller filed a motion to quash an existing subpoena (aka he filed a request to terminate a subpoena) that gave Zara the right to request and obtain “all emails on any subject between [Miller] and his long-term partner.” According to Miller, Zara’s subpoena was “overly expansive” and extended to information that was clearly outside of the scope of the case. Miller alleged that the burdensome subpoena amounts to continued harassment by Zara.
In addition to seeking an order from the court terminating Zara’s subpoena, Miller filed for a motion for a protective order, which is a request that the court protect one party (Miller, here) from potentially abusive action by the other party (Zara, in this case). While such a request is often made in connection with the discovery of another party's trade secrets, it is also called upon to protect a party from unreasonable discovery requests that amount to harassment or create an undue burden and expense, and/or oppression, any of which very well may apply in the case at hand.
The case has been quite eventful from the get-go. You may recall that in August, Zara filed to have the court dismiss Miller’s claim of retaliation. (Miller alleged that he was fired after complaining to Zara’s executives about being harassed. Hence, the retaliation claim). Zara’s argument: Such a claim cannot proceed because it would violate the attorney-client privilege that existed between Miller and his former client, Zara. (Note: Attorney-client privilege is a doctrine that holds that communications between a client and lawyer for the purpose of obtaining legal representation are privileged and thus, the attorney is prevented from being compelled to testify to those communications in court)
Miller responded to Zara’s motion, rejecting the argument and asserting that his complaint only describes the general subject matter of the advice he gave Zara, and not anything specific.
Not surprisingly, Zara fought back in September, arguing that Miller failed to show how he could pursue a retaliation claim without violating attorney-client privilege or his confidential duty.