At one point or another, every HR professional has received the dread court order. If you’re new to HR, you might have hit the ground running, being the HR go-to for your organization, or you might have a boss that will help you through the process. In either case, responding to your first court order can be intimidating.
Court documents are not something you can afford to wait until the last minute to read over or complete. There can often be a lot of documentation that will be requested by the attorney, and as the HR department you want to make sure you’re doing everything possible to comply with the subpoena.
Here a few tips to help you through your first court order:
Contact Your Lawyer
This should always be your first move. I’m sure you can get together the needed documentation with no trouble, but you’re not a lawyer. You want to make sure someone else in the same mindset of the person who sent the subpoena looks it over and lays out exactly what is needed. Remember, your lawyer might be billed by the minute, so make sure you have all of the information in front of you before the meeting starts. Write down all the questions you might have concerning the case, what your role will be, and what rights you and the company have in this area.
Review the File
If this case is regarding an employee, the subpoena will tell you exactly what information they want you to provide. At this point, you need to review the file in question, make copies of the documents – I hope you know to never give your originals – and redact any information that does not need to be passed around, such as social security numbers. Some attorneys will only subpoena the information they need you to provide, but every once in a while, they will request that you are actually present for the case. This means you need to be up to date on the employee and what you have that can actually show proof for in the situation.
What About the Company?
If the case is regarding the company, this can change many aspects. You, of course, want to get your attorney involved and allow them to guide you through this process, or even better, do all of the work. The company might still need to provide documentation, interviews, and evidence, and more people will need to be made aware of the situation, but this will always be a need to know the situation. You don’t want the word getting out about the company, especially if this is something small. If it is something that needs to be communicated throughout the organization, it needs to be done correctly and with great care.
Please know, this is not legal advice, just examples from experiences I’ve been through or heard about. Legal cases are nothing to sit around and beat around the bush about. The company and HR department need to be diligent about organizing information, follow up and keeping in constant communication with the needed parties. Contact legal counsel as soon as possible, and always tell the truth.