State Laws on Access to Your Personnel File

In many states, employees have the right to view, or request a copy of, their personnel files.

Your employer is required by law to document certain information about you, including 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.

What Is In a Personnel File?

A personnel file often contains only information provided by the employee (such as contact information) and documents employees have seen in the course of their employment (such as performance evaluations).

Sometimes, however, personnel files hold other items that employees 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.

The best way to find out what your current or former employer knows about you, or what information might be passed on to potential employers, is to get a copy of your personnel file. Your personnel file can also become important evidence in a lawsuit against your employer for discrimination, wage violations, or wrongful termination.

What Are the State Laws on Personnel Records?

While there is no federal law governing personnel files, many states have passed laws granting employees the right to view or copy at least some of the contents of their personnel records. For example, employees typically have the right to see evaluations, performance reviews, and other documents that determine a promotion, bonus, or raise. However, they might not have the right to view letters of reference from former employers, test results, or records of an investigation into criminal conduct or violation of workplace rules. Some states even allow employees to challenge information in their files, for example, by including a letter (called a “rebuttal”) in the personnel file disputing inaccurate information.

Below, you’ll find information on state laws that authorize access to personnel files. If your state isn’t included, it does not have a law addressing the subject. In these states, the only way to gain access to personnel records might be to file a lawsuit against the employer for violating other employment laws. For example, if you believe you have been discriminated against, you can file a lawsuit against your employer and request your personnel file through a legal process called “discovery.” A lawyer can help you determine the best way to proceed.

Other state laws might address an employee’s right to access their payroll records, records of exposure to hazardous substances, and other employment-related documents. However, these laws are not included in this chart. Talk to a local employment lawyer if you need access to very specific employment documents.

Alaska | California | Colorado | Connecticut | Delaware | Illinois | Iowa | Maine | Massachusetts | Michigan | Minnesota | Nevada | New Hampshire | Oregon | Pennsylvania | Rhode Island | Washington | Wisconsin

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 personnel records relating to performance or to a grievance proceeding, within 30 days of making a written request for records. Employer may redact the names of any nonmanagerial employees. Employer need not comply with more than one request per year from a former employee. If employee files a lawsuit against employer that relates to a personnel matter, the right to review personnel records ceases while the suit is pending.

Written request required: Yes. If employee makes an oral request, the employer must supply a form to make a written request.

Conditions for viewing records: Employee may view personnel file at reasonable times, during break or nonwork hours. If records are kept offsite 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. If former employee was terminated for reasons relating to harassment or workplace violence, employer may provide copy of records or make them available offsite.

Copying records: Employee or former employee also has a right to a copy of personnel records, at the employee's cost, within 30 days of making a written request.

Colorado

Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 8-2-129

Employers affected: All.

Employee access to records: Upon request, current employee may inspect personnel file at least once per year. Former employee may inspect personnel file once after termination of employment.

Conditions for viewing records: Employer must make personnel file available at its place of business at a time convenient to employee and employer. Employer may have a designated representative present at the time of inspection.

Copying records: Employee or former employee may request a copy of the personnel file. Employer can require the employee to pay reasonable copying costs.

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 7 business days after making a request, but not more than twice a year. Former employee has right to inspect personnel files within 10 business days after making a request.

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 designated official.

Copying records: Employer must provide copies within 7 days (current employee) or 10 days (former employee) after ­receiving employee's written request; request must identify the materials employee wants copied. Employer may charge a fee that is based on the cost of supplying documents. Employee is entitled to a copy of any disciplinary action against the employee within 1 business day after it is imposed; employer must immediately provide terminated employee with a copy of the termination notice.

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 (a “rebuttal”). Rebuttal must be maintained as part of the file. Employer must inform employee of the right to submit a rebuttal 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 (a “rebuttal”). 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 the request (an employer who cannot meet the 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 the 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 (a “rebuttal”). 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, but not more than twice a calendar year. (Law does not apply to tenured or tenure-track employees in private colleges and universities.) Employer must notify an employee within 10 days of placing in the employee's personnel record any information to the extent that the information is, has been, or may be used, to negatively affect the employee's qualification for employment, promotion, transfer, additional compensation, or the possibility that the employee will be subject to disciplinary action. (This notification does not count toward employee's two allotted opportunities to view personnel file.)

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 (a “rebuttal”). 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 or former employee who has worked at least 60 days must be given a reasonable opportunity to inspect personnel records. A former employee must be given access within 60 days of termination.

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

Copying records: Employer must provide a copy of the file to current employees and to former employees who make a request within 60 days of termination. 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 payroll records and personnel records used to determine qualifications for employment, promotion, or additional compensation, termination, or other disciplinary action.

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 more than 60 days after termination, employer shall provide a certified copy of requested records if employer has records at time of the request. The employer may charge an 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; the authorization 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 employees or agents 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 file 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 the 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. An employer that provides copies may charge only the 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.

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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.

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