Payday loans

July 19, 2013

HR Fact Friday: HR Q&A – I’d Like to See My Personnel File

Filed under: Compliance,Employment Law,General HR Buzz — Tags: 6:00 am

Q:   We have an employee who requested a copy of their personnel file.  We’ve always treated these as extremely confidential.  Am I obligated to comply with this request?        Signed – Worried Sick

A:  Dear Worried Sick -

I have a very simple answer for you, “It depends!”  Now, before you roll your eyes and pull out the headache medicine, I’ll explain why.  Understandably, when an employee asks to view, let alone, copy their personnel file, HR folks tend to get a little anxious because we start imagining the worst case scenario.  This could be a signal they are preparing to file a claim, but at the very least, they may have a problem or are just becoming disenchanted with their job.

Federal law requires access in certain instances, to review their records regarding exposure to toxic substances or harmful physical agents, as well as their medical records.

The majority of states have laws governing employee rights to access their personnel files, but these laws vary significantly by state.  Some of the differences include:

  • Whether the law applies to public employers only or to both public and private employers
  • If both current and past employees may have access
  • If access is required, how much time does the employer have to respond to the request
  • What types of documents may be viewed and what may be excluded
  • When and how the inspection of the file will take place
  • Whether documents may be copied
  • If an employee who disagrees with the file’s contents can add statements regarding their disagreement

Allowing employees to view their files may actually help prevent a lawsuit, even if you are not required by law, if the files are in good order and issues are appropriately documented.  Allowing access also sends the message that you have nothing to hide, are confident in your HR practices, and believe you can defend your actions.  Employees sometimes think that what is in their files “belongs to them.”  While that is not entirely true, if you kept the employee informed, had them sign the documents and gave them copies, then most of what they will be looking at, they should already have!

The bottom line is to check your state law, determine what you must allow and what you will allow, document your new policy, and call your employee.  If your house is in order, you have nothing to worry about!


No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.