Nyemaster Goode, P.C.

Polk County Judge Puts the Brakes on Wholesale Production of Personnel Files -- Even With a Protective Order

An employer defending discrimination or wrongful termination litigation is frequently faced with an overly broad request from opposing counsel to produce numerous personnel files of its current and former employees. These workers often have no apparent involvement or knowledge about the events alleged in the lawsuit. Plaintiffs' counsel usually justify this demand for wholesale disclosure of, and unhindered access to, numerous irrelevant personnel files on two grounds:

(1) the discovery rules give the parties substantial latitude in conducting discovery; and

(2) courts can issue "protective orders" to prevent the parties from using or disclosing information found in the personnel files for purposes other than the immediate litigation.


In a recent case, Tom Cunningham and Anna Mundy of Nyemaster Goode's Labor & Employment Law Department defended their client-employer against this type of attempted overreaching. They persuaded District Judge Douglas Staskal to deny a plaintiff's motion to compel production of the complete contents of the personnel files of approximately 35 employees -- even though the court had earlier issued a protective order to maintain the confidentiality of such records – because the plaintiff was unable to demonstrate the relevancy of the personnel files in the first place.


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