Must Employers Allow Papers to Be Served During Work Hours?

Nobody wants to be sued, but that doesn't always mean you can avoid it.

Nobody wants to be sued, but that doesn't always mean you can avoid it.

Some people try to avoid or at least delay a legal action they aren't happy with by refusing to accept the papers. Professional process servers have a number of different tactics for successfully serving papers to a reluctant respondent. One of these is to serve the papers at the the respondent's workplace or to his employer. Laws vary in different areas, but some jurisdictions only allow process servers to visit a workplace during business hours.

Personal Service

Anyone with no personal involvement in the case can act as a process server to give the court papers directly to the correct person. However, many people hire professional process servers for this purpose. Personal service is the preferred way to let a person know about a legal action, such as a lawsuit, divorce proceeding, protection order or child support petition. If the person who is supposed to receive the papers tries to avoid the process server, the plaintiff can ask the court to allow alternate or substitute service. For example, if the respondent asks his supervisor to refuse to let any process servers in the building, the court may approve some form of alternate service.

Substitute Service

Alternate, or substitute, service is allowed only after a judge approves it. One form of substitute service is to serve the court papers to the supervisor at the respondent's workplace. If a judge has already approved this form of service, then the respondent will legally be considered to have received the papers as soon as the supervisor receives them. The process servers can simply walk in to the respondent's workplace during business hours, hand the papers to whoever is in charge and then leave before anyone has even read the papers.

Refusing Service

Some companies have corporate policies to discourage process servers by diverting them to the corporate office, and some try to ban process servers from company property. However, this is largely an empty threat, as many states have laws preventing company security guards or anyone else from trying to physically interfere with a process server delivering court papers. A security guard who attempts to physically remove a process server from the workplace may be committing a misdemeanor or even a felony.

Where There's a Will

Some jurisdictions require companies to allow process servers access, but, even in areas with no such law, the company can do little to prevent a determined process server from finding a way to serve the papers. A process server can wait outside the respondent's door or petition a judge to allow various forms of alternate service, such as mailing the papers or attaching them to the door. A determined process server may stand up to company security guards and refuse to leave, creating more of a scene than if the guards had not intervened. In the end, trying to refuse or evade being served papers is unlikely to accomplish much.

 

About the Author

Scott Thompson has been writing professionally since 1990, beginning with the "Pequawket Valley News." He is the author of nine published books on topics such as history, martial arts, poetry and fantasy fiction. His work has also appeared in "Talebones" magazine and the "Strange Pleasures" anthology.

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