How To Obtain Your Personnel File
Employee Right-To-Know Act
Who Is Covered by the Law? (Section l(b))
Under this new law which became effective January 1, 1979, any employee or former employee hired by any employer with four or more employees in either the private or public sector has the right to request a review of his or her personnel file.
How May an Employee Request to See His or Her Personnel File? (Section 3)
An employee who wishes to review his or her file must make a written request which describes the personnel file to the employer. This request should include as many identifying factors as possible in order to facilitate the employer's retrieval of the record. Information should include name, Social Security number, dates of employment, branch number or location of the facility. Further identifying factors include plant number, division number and badge number if such information applies.
How Often May an Employee See His or Her Personnel File? (Section 3)
An employee may ask to see his or her personnel file at reasonable intervals, generally not more than two times in a calendar year or as provided by any other special law, or by the employee's collective bargaining agreement.
Where May an Employee Review His or Her Personnel File? (Section 3)
The review shall take place at a location reasonably near the employee's place of employment and during normal working hours. However, the employer may allow the review to take place at another time and location that would be more convenient to the employee. If a former employee wishes to review a personnel file kept by a past employer, other arrangements would have to be made, or the former employee would have to request in writing a copy of the information contained in his or her file.
Does Any Employee Need to Take Time Off to Review His or Her File? (Section 3)
No, providing that the employee wishes to review the personnel file kept by his or her current employer. If a review during normal working hours would require an employee to take time off from work, the employer must provide some other reasonable time or location that would be more convenient to the employee. This stipulation does not apply to cases where the employee wishes to review a personnel file kept by a former employer.
How Can an Employee Obtain a Copy of His or Her File? (Section 4)
After looking at the file, an employee may obtain a copy of any or all information contained in the file by simply requesting it from the employer. If the employee is unable to review his or her personnel record, he or she must demonstrate this inability to the employer, and then make a written request to the employer that a copy of the information in the personnel file be mailed to him or her. (See sample letter at end of this introductory section).
Can an Employer Charge a Fee for Providing a Copy of a Personnel File? (Section 4)
Yes. An employer may charge a fee for providing a copy of all or part of the information contained in the personnel file, but the fee shall be limited to the employer's actual cost of duplicating the information.
What if an Employee Disagrees With Information in the File? (Section 5)
If the employee disagrees with information contained in a personnel file, removal or correction of that information may be mutually agreed upon by the employer and the employee. If such an agreement cannot be reached, the employee may submit a written statement explaining his or her position, which will become a permanent part of the file. The law allows a statement of up to five sheets of 8-1/2 by 11 inch paper to be added to the file. It must be included whenever the file is divulged to a third party.
What Are Personnel Records and What Are Not? (Section 1(c))
Basically, the Act defines personnel records as information identifying an employee which is kept by an employer and which is used to determine an employee's qualifications for employment, promotions, transfers, additional compensation, or disciplinary information.
The law does not require the following information to be open for review as a part of the personnel record:
- Employee references supplied to an employer that would reveal the identify of the person making the reference.
- Materials which disclose an employer’s staff planning regarding more than 1 employee, including salary increases, management bonus plans, promotions, and job assignments. Such materials relating only to the employee concerned are required to be a part of the file, however.
- Medical reports and records in an employer’s possession if the information is available to the employee from other sources.
- Personal information concerning someone other than the employee if disclosure would be a clearly unwarranted invasion of the other person's privacy.
- Information concerning the employee relative to a criminal investigation, and kept apart from other records.
- Records limited to grievance investigations which are kept separately and are not used to determine an employee's qualifications for employment, promotions, transfers, additional compensation, or disciplinary action.
- Records maintained by an educational institution concerning a student which are considered educational records according to the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. These records are open pursuant to that Federal law, 20 U.S.C. 1232g.
- Notes kept by an executive, administrative, or professional employee which remain solely in the possession of the maker of the record, and are not seen by anyone else. However, a note concerning an occurrence or fact about an employee may be entered into the personnel file up to six months after the date of the occurrence or the date the fact becomes known. After this time, the information may not become part of the personnel file.
All other records kept and used by an employer in determining an employee's qualifications for employment, promotions, transfers, additional compensation, or disciplinary action must be available to the employee for review.