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CAN AN EMPLOYER SAY `NO’ TO A CONSTABLE?

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Dear Do-It Man: I have tried to have a constable serve small claims court papers to an employee of AT&T.

The company has refused to let the constable serve these papers.Is it really the policy of AT&T to assist their employees in avoiding their responsibilities?

We have had good cooperation from other companies.

- R.F.C., Salt Lake City.

Dear R.F.C.: According to John Sindt, executive vice president of public relations, Salt Lake County Constables' Association, there are several companies in the Salt Lake Valley that don't the allow the delivery of court documents regarding a civil case to an individual employed on their premises. (Criminal cases are another matter.)

The jargon for hand delivering court documents is "serve process."

According to Sindt, a ruling on a case in Salt Lake County a number of years ago allows a company to refuse the service of a civil process if the employee works in an area that is not open to the general public. If the employee is in an area that is normally accessible to the public, a process server cannot be prevented from entering that area to serve the papers, according to the ruling.

There are alternatives to serving the papers at the person's place of work but they may not always be cost effective.

"A process server gets $6 plus mileage to serve small claims court documents," says Sindt. "How much time can an officer spend waiting for that person to come out of the building?"

The rules of civil procedure provide for an alternative after a reasonable but unsuccessful attempt to deliver the papers has been made.

You may file a motion with the court requesting an alternative method of serving the papers such as by mail or by publishing a notice in a newspaper.

You must accompany the motion with an affadavit signed by the process server outlining his efforts to serve the papers.

A spokesman for AT&T in San Francisco says the company's policy helps maintain the security of its buildings and the privacy of its employees.

It will deliver to an employee any documents that a constable leaves.

According to Sindt, however, leaving documents at the front desk is not a proper way to serve papers. "Sometimes we'll go to the personnel office and the personnel officer will call the defendant and ask if he wants to come down. If he doesn't want to see us, that's up to him."

Constables or deputy sheriffs can serve papers. In the case of a summons or subpoena, you may engage a private process server.