Employer responsibilities when subpoena demands personnel files

Q. What should the employer do when an employee’s personnel file is subpoenaed?

A. The employer is required to respond to a properly issued subpoena. It can respond by producing the documents requested or by filing an objection with the court pursuant to Rule 45 of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure.

Often subpoenas are broad and cover documents—such as medical records—that should be protected. In such cases, the employer may be able to limit the scope of the subpoena by talking to the party that issued it. Alternatively, the employer should file an objection with the court. Also, it is a good policy to notify the employee that his personnel records have been subpoenaed. That gives the employee an opportunity to object to the subpoena.

Never ignore subpoenas. If you have any doubt about how to handle one, you should call your attorney immediately. He or she can give you specific guidance.