State Laws on Access to Your Personnel File

Related Ads

Need Professional Help? Talk to a Lawyer

Enter Your Zip Code to Connect with a Lawyer Serving Your Area

searchbox small

Your employer is required by law to keep some tabs on you—including information on your wages and hours, workplace injuries and illnesses, and tax withholding, as well as records of accrued vacation and other benefits. That information is usually gathered in one place: your personnel file. These files typically contain only information you've provided to your employer (such as contact information) and documents you've already seen about your employment (such as performance evaluations).

Sometimes, however, personnel files hold other kinds of information, including items you may never have seen, such as references from previous employers, comments from customers or clients, write-ups of coaching or disciplinary meetings, or memos of management’s observations about an employee’s behavior or productivity. When employment disputes develop, or an employee is demoted, transferred, or fired, the personnel file often provides essential information about why problems arose.

A federal law, the Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. § 552a), limits the type of information that federal agencies, the military, and other government employers may keep on their workers.

However, private employers have nearly free reign when it comes to the kind of information they can collect. While many states now have some type of law regulating personnel files (see the chart below), most of these laws control not the content of the files, but, rather:

• whether and how employees and former employees can get access to their personnel files

• whether employees are entitled to copies of the documents in them, and

• how employees can contest and correct erroneous information in their files.

Getting Access to Your File

The best way to find out what a company knows about you, or what company representatives are saying about you to outside people who inquire, is to get a copy of your personnel file.

In some states, you have a right to see those files only if they are related to a lawsuit you filed against your employer or former employer. Even then, you might be in for a legal battle over what portions of the files are relevant to the case. But, in many states, you have the right to see the contents of your personnel file—or at least some of the documents in it—without filing a lawsuit.

State laws on employee access to personnel records generally cover technical matters, such as when your request must be made, how long the employer has to respond, and whether you have the right to dispute information with which you disagree. Before you request your file, read the law for your state. Even if your state doesn't require it, you should put your request to see your personnel file in writing.

If you live in a state that does not have a specific law ensuring you access to your personnel records, all is not lost. If you wish to see and copy your personnel files, askfor permission to do so. If you meet with resistance, make a more formal request in writing. If that request is denied, and you genuinely believe your records may contain information that is critical to your position, you may need to consult with an expert such as a private investigator or an experienced attorney.

Confidential Information

Employers are supposed to collect only information about you that is job related. And only those people with a proven need to know are supposed to have access to your personnel file. For example, your employer cannot tell your coworkers the results of a drug screening test you were required to take. But the truth is that employers frequently give out information about their employees to other people: other employers, unions, creditors, insurance agents, and even the police.

Job applicants or employees who want some personal information to remain private—address and phone number, for example, if they fear physical violence at the hands of a former spouse—should request in writing that the information be kept confidential. That request may end up being worth little more than the paper it is written on. But it may also be the strongest evidence of an employer’s carelessness should problems develop later.

State Laws on Access to Personnel Records

This chart deals with only those states that authorize access to personnel files. Generally, an employee is allowed to see evaluations, performance reviews, and other documents that determine a promotion, bonus, or raise; access usually does not include letters of reference, test results, or records of a criminal or workplace violation investigation. Under other state laws, employees may have access to their medical records and records of exposure to hazardous substances; these laws are not included in this chart.

Alaska

Alaska Stat. § 23.10.430

Employers affected: All.

Employee access to records: Employee or former employee may view and copy personnel files.

Conditions for viewing records: Employee may view records during regular business hours under reasonable rules.

Copying records: Employee pays (if employer so requests).

California

Cal. Lab. Code §§ 1198.5; 432

Employers affected: All employers subject to wage and hour laws.

Employee access to records: Employee or former employee has right to inspect at reasonable intervals any personnel records relating to performance or to a grievance proceeding. Employer need nto provide records regarding the investigation of a criminal offense, letters or reference, or certain other records. Employer must comply with only one request per year from former employees. This right ceases while a lawsuit brought by the employee based on a personnel matter is pending against the employer. 

Written request required: Yes. If employee requests file orally, employer must supply form for making request in writing. 

Conditions for viewing records: Employer must make records available no more than 30 days after receiving written request. Employee may view records at reasonable times, during break or nonwork hours. If records are kept off-site or employer does not make them available at the workplace, then employee must be allowed to view them at the storage location without loss of pay.

Copying records: Employee also has a right to a copy of personnel records, within 30 days after making written request. 

Connecticut

Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. §§ 31-128a to 31-128h

Employers affected: All.

Employee access to records: Employee has right to inspect personnel files within a reasonable time after making a request, but not more than twice a year. Employer must keep files on former employees for at least one year after termination.

Written request required: Yes.

Conditions for viewing records: Employee may view records during regular business hours in a location at or near worksite. Employer may require that files be viewed in the presence of employer’s designated official.

Copying records: Employer must provide a copy of any disciplinary action within one business day after it is imposed; copy of termination notice must be supplied immediately. For other records, employer must provide copies within seven days of receiving current employee's written request, or within ten business days of receiving former employee's request. Request must identify the materials employee wants copied. Employer may charge a fee that is based on the cost of supplying documents.

Employee’s right to insert rebuttal: If employee disagrees with information in personnel file and cannot reach an agreement with employer to remove or correct it, employee may submit an explanatory written statement. Rebuttal must be maintained as part of the file. Employer must inform employee of this right in evaluation, discipline, or termination paperwork. 

Delaware

Del. Code Ann. tit. 19, §§ 730 to 735

Employers affected: All.

Employee access to records: Current employee, employee who is laid off with reemployment rights, or employee on leave of absence may inspect personnel record; employee’s agent is not entitled to have access to records. Unless there is reasonable cause, employer may limit access to once a year.

Written request required: At employer’s discretion. Employer may require employee to file a form and indicate either the purpose of the review or what parts of the record employee wants to inspect.

Conditions for viewing records: Records may be viewed during employer’s regular business hours. Employer may require that employees view files on their own time and may also require that files be viewed on the premises and in the presence of designated official.

Copying records: Employer is not required to permit employee to copy records. Employee may take notes.

Employee’s right to insert rebuttal: If employee disagrees with information in personnel file and cannot reach an agreement with employer to remove or correct it, employee may submit an explanatory written statement. Rebuttal must be maintained as part of the personnel file.

Illinois

820 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 40/1 to 40/12

Employers affected: Employers with 5 or more employees.

Employee access to records: Current employee, or former employee terminated within the past year, is permitted to inspect records twice a year at reasonable intervals, unless a collective bargaining agreement provides otherwise. An employee involved in a current grievance may designate a representative of the union or collective bargaining unit, or other agent, to inspect personnel records that may be relevant to resolving the grievance. Employer must make records available within 7 working days after employee makes request (if employer cannot meet deadline, may be allowed an additional 7 days).

Written request required: At employer’s discretion. Employer may require use of a form.

Conditions for viewing records: Records may be viewed during normal business hours at or near worksite or, at employer’s discretion, during nonworking hours at a different location if more convenient for employee.

Copying records: After reviewing records, employee may get a copy. Employer may charge only actual cost of duplication. If employee is unable to view files at worksite, employer, upon receipt of a written request, must mail employee a copy.

Employee’s right to insert rebuttal: If employee disagrees with any information in the personnel file and cannot reach an agreement with employer to remove or correct it, employee may submit an explanatory written statement. Rebuttal must remain in file with no additional comment by employer.

Iowa

Iowa Code §§ 91A.2, 91B.1

Employers affected: All employers with salaried employees or commissioned salespeople.

Employee access to records: Employee may have access to personnel file at time agreed upon by employer and employee.

Conditions for viewing records: Employer’s representative may be present.

Copying records: Employer may charge copying fee for each page that is equivalent to a commercial copying service fee.

Maine

Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 26, § 631

Employers affected: All.

Employee access to records: Within 10 days of submitting request, employee, former employee, or authorized representative may view and copy personnel files.

Written request required: Yes.

Conditions for viewing records: Employee may view records during normal business hours at the location where the files are kept, unless employer, at own discretion, arranges a time and place more convenient for employee. If files are in electronic or any other nonprint format, employer must provide equipment for viewing and copying.

Copying records: Employee entitled to one free copy of personnel file during each calendar year, including any material added to file during that year. Employee must pay for any additional copies.

Massachusetts

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 52C

Employers affected: All. (Employers with 20 or more employees must maintain personnel records for 3 years after termination.)

Employee access to records: Employee or former employee must have opportunity to review personnel files within 5 business days of submitting request. (Law does not apply to tenured or tenure-track employees in private colleges and universities.)

Written request required: Yes.

Conditions for viewing records: Employee may view records at workplace during normal business hours.

Copying records: Employee must be given a copy of record within 5 business days of submitting a written request.

Employee’s right to insert rebuttal: If employee disagrees with any information in personnel record and cannot reach an agreement with employer to remove or correct it, employee may submit an explanatory written statement. Rebuttal becomes a part of the personnel file.

Michigan

Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 423.501 to 423.505

Employers affected: Employers with 4 or more employees.

Employee access to records: Current or former employee is entitled to review personnel records at reasonable intervals, generally not more than twice a year, unless a collective bargaining agreement provides otherwise.

Written request required: Yes. Request must describe the record employee wants to review.

Conditions for viewing records: Employee may view records during normal office hours either at or reasonably near the worksite. If these hours would require employee to take time off work, employer must provide another reasonable time for review.

Copying records: After reviewing files, employee may get a copy; employer may charge only actual cost of duplication. If employee is unable to view files at the worksite, employer, upon receipt of a written request, must mail employee a copy.

Employee’s right to insert rebuttal: If employee disagrees with any information in personnel record and cannot reach an agreement with employer to remove or correct it, employee may submit a written statement explaining his or her position. Statement may be no longer than five 8.5” by 11” pages.

Minnesota

Minn. Stat. Ann. §§ 181.960 to 181.966

Employers affected: 20 or more employees.

Employee access to records: Current employee may review files once per 6-month period; former employee may have access to records once only during the first year after termination. Employer must comply with written request within 7 working days (14 working days if personnel records kept out of state). Employer may not retaliate against an employee who asserts rights under these laws.

Written request required: Yes.

Conditions for viewing records: Current employee may view records during employer’s normal business hours at worksite or a nearby location; does not have to take place during employee’s working hours. Employer or employer’s representative may be present.

Copying records: Employer must provide copy free of charge. Current employee must first review record and then submit written request for copies. Former employee must submit written request; providing former employee with a copy fulfills employer’s obligation to allow access to records.

Employee’s right to insert rebuttal: If employee disputes specific information in the personnel record, and cannot reach an agreement with employer to remove or revise it, employee may submit a written statement identifying the disputed information and explaining his or her position. Statement may be no longer than 5 pages and must be kept with personnel record as long as it is maintained.

Nevada

Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 613.075

Employers affected: All.

Employee access to records: An employee who has worked at least 60 days and a former employee, within 60 days of termination, must be given a reasonable opportunity to inspect personnel records.

Conditions for viewing records: Employee may view records during employer’s normal business hours.

Copying records: Employer may charge only actual cost of providing access and copies.

Employee’s right to insert rebuttal: Employee may submit a reasonable written explanation in direct response to any entry in personnel record. Statement must be of reasonable length; employer may specify the format; employer must maintain statement in personnel records.

New Hampshire

N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 275:56

Employers affected: All.

Employee access to records: Employer must provide employees a reasonable opportunity to inspect records.

Copying records: Employer may charge a fee reasonably related to cost of supplying copies.

Employee’s right to insert rebuttal: If employee disagrees with any of the information in personnel record and cannot reach an agreement with the employer to remove or correct it, employee may submit an explanatory written statement along with supporting evidence. Statement must be maintained as part of personnel file.

Oregon

Or. Rev. Stat. § 652.750

Employers affected: All.

Employee access to records: Within 45 days after receipt of request, employer must provide employee a reasonable opportunity to inspect personnel records used to determine qualifications for employment, promotion, or additional compensation, termination, or other disciplinary action. Employer must keep records for 60 days after termination of employee.

Conditions for viewing records: Employee may view records at worksite or place of work assignment.

Copying records: Within 45 days after receipt of request, employer must provide a certified copy of requested record to current or former employee (if request made within 60 days of termination). If employee makes request after 60 days from termination, employer shall provide a certified copy of requested records if employer has records at time of the request. May charge amount reasonably calculated to recover actual cost of providing copy.

Pennsylvania

43 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 1321 to 1324

Employers affected: All.

Employee access to records: Employer must allow employee to inspect personnel record at reasonable times. (Employee’s agent, or employee who is laid off with reemployment rights or on leave of absence, must also be given access.) Unless there is reasonable cause, employer may limit review to once a year by employee and once a year by employee’s agent.

Written request required: At employer’s discretion. Employer may require the use of a form as well as a written indication of the parts of the record employee wants to inspect or the purpose of the inspection. For employee’s agent: Employee must provide signed authorization designating agent; must be for a specific date and indicate the reason for the inspection or the parts of the record the agent is authorized to inspect.

Conditions for viewing records: Employee may view records during regular business hours at the office where records are maintained, when there is enough time for employee to complete the review. Employer may require that employee or agent view records on their own time and may also require that inspection take place on the premises and in the presence of employer’s designated official.

Copying records: Employer not obligated to permit copying. Employee may take notes.

Employee’s right to insert rebuttal: The Bureau of Labor Standards, after a petition and hearing, may allow employee to place a counterstatement in the personnel file, if employee claims that the file contains an error.

Rhode Island

R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-6.4-1

Employers affected: All.

Employee access to records: Employer must permit employee to inspect personnel files when given at least 7 days’ advance notice (excluding weekends and holidays). Employer may limit access to no more than 3 times a year.

Written request required: Yes.

Conditions for viewing records: Employee may view records at any reasonable time other than employee’s work hours. Inspection must take place in presence of employer or employer’s representative.

Copying records: Employee may not make copies or remove files from place of inspection. Employer may charge a fee reasonably related to cost of supplying copies.

Washington

Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 49.12.240 to 49.12.260

Employers affected: All.

Employee access to records: Employee may have access to personnel records at least once a year within a reasonable time after making a request.

Employee’s right to insert rebuttal: Employee may petition annually that employer review all information in employee’s personnel file. If there is any irrelevant or incorrect information in the file, employer must remove it. If employee does not agree with employer’s review, employee may have a statement of rebuttal or correction placed in file. Former employee has right of rebuttal for two years after termination.

Wisconsin

Wis. Stat. Ann. § 103.13

Employers affected: All employers who maintain personnel records.

Employee access to records: Employee and former employee must be allowed to inspect personnel records within 7 working days of making request. Access is permitted twice per calendar year unless a collective bargaining agreement provides otherwise. Employee involved in a current grievance may designate a representative of the union or collective bargaining unit, or other agent, to inspect records that may be relevant to resolving the grievance.

Written request required: At employer’s discretion.

Conditions for viewing records: Employee may view records during normal working hours at a location reasonably near worksite. If this would require employee to take time off work, employer may provide another reasonable time for review.

Copying records: Employee’s right of inspection includes the right to make or receive copies. If employer provides copies, may charge only actual cost of reproduction.

Employee’s right to insert rebuttal: If employee disagrees with any information in the personnel record and cannot come to an agreement with the employer to remove or correct it, employee may submit an explanatory written statement. Employer must attach the statement to the disputed portion of the personnel record.

caution.jpg

CAUTION

Additional laws may apply. If the chart above indicates that your state has no statute, this means there is no law that specifically addresses the issue. However, there may be a state administrative regulation or local ordinance that does control access to personnel records. Call your state labor department for more information.

Talk to an Employment Attorney

Need a lawyer? Start here.
HOW IT WORKS
how it works 1
Briefly tell us about your case
how it works 2
Provide your contact information
how it works 1
Choose attorneys to contact you
LA-NOLO6:DRU.1.6.3.6.20141124.29342