Like many states, Texas allows its citizens access to much information that is considered public. Also like most states, Texas places limits on the exposure of certain sensitive information that should remain confidential.
No specific Texas law allows private-sector employees access to their workplace personnel files, but the Texas Public Information Act does provide that right to public employees. So, while Jack Public Servant can’t see his cubicle mate’s personnel file under the state public disclosure law, he can see his own file.
Section 552.102 of the Public Information Act specifies that “all information in the personnel file of an employee of a governmental body is to be made available to that employee or the employee’s designated representative.” That means public employers in Texas should make sure that personnel files don’t include any irrelevant, damaging or otherwise embarrassing information.
Each government agency has the right to set reasonable procedures for employees’ access to records, including personnel files. If you are a public employer, you should develop a set procedure for employees to use.
One key point: The law requires you to release requested information (which would include the employee’s own personnel file) within 10 days of the request.
A word of caution: Because the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and several other federal laws require you to keep medical information separate from other general personnel file records, make sure you do so.
Public employees who request their personnel files should be given both files: the general file and the confidential one. Make sure the two are labeled separately. If you’ve placed all that information in a single file, you’re risking an ADA lawsuit.
Excerpted from Texas' 10 Most Critical Employment Laws, a special bonus report available to subscribers of HR Specialist: Texas Employment Law.
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