Q. We recently received a subpoena to produce the contents of an employee's personnel file in connection with a 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? —K.H., District of Columbia
A. Assuming the subpoena was served in accordance with the rules of the court, you must turn over the requested documents. A subpoena can be as simple as a one-page form completed by an attorney that comes in the mail.
Although it may appear legitimate, it never hurts to ask your attorney to review it before you comply, as the subpoena may be flawed. We also recommend that you notify the employee of the company's intent to comply with the subpoena. Such notification gives the employee the opportunity to formally object to the subpoena before you turn over a confidential personnel file.