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Georgia Supreme Court ruling could effect business litigation

In 2008, nearly 43,000 people applied for positions at the Kia plant in Fulton County, but were not hired. Among those applicants were several union autoworkers. Those union members filed business litigation against Kia alleging that the automaker designed its hiring and screening process that unfairly blacklisted them from employment at the Georgia plant.

As part of that litigation, the autoworkers sent an Open Records Act request to the Technical College System of Georgia to see if its Quick Start program was involved in Kia's hiring process. The Quick Start program provides businesses coming into the state or in-state businesses seeking expansion with training for their workforce at no charge. A response to the request sent the following week claimed the records were exempt under an amendment to the Act because documents could potentially expose Kia's business practices to competitors.

The trial court disagreed, and a separate action on that issue was ultimately appealed all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court. That court recently ruled that the amendment in question is constitutional and could be applied retroactively. The amendment applies allows records to be kept secret if they could reveal details regarding an economic development project while the company and the state negotiate an agreement. Aspects of any training program for the project would also be exempted. Other records may not be exempt, however, so the Supreme Court remanded the case back to the trial court for further action.

The court's ruling could have applications to other businesses similarly situated to Kia. Many people are under the mistaken impression that any request filed in business litigation under the Open Records Act must produce the requested records. There are exceptions to the Act that can protect business secrets from competitors.

Source: ajc.com, Court rules for state, Kia in Open Records Act dispute, Bill Rankin, Nov. 18, 2013

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