Q. We recently received a subpoena to produce the contents of an employee’s personnel file in connection with a federal lawsuit. The employee is a party to the lawsuit, but the company is not. Do we have to comply with the subpoena? Should we tell the employee about the subpoena?
A. If the subpoena is valid and was served properly, then you need to comply with it.
However, you may be able to object if it is overly burdensome or on other grounds, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45.
You do not have to tell the employee about the subpoena—the personnel file is company property—but you may wish to do so for employee-relations reasons. Also, be sure to redact any confidential information, such as the employee’s Social Security number. Don’t divulge any medical information without a valid authorization that complies with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rules.