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Must we grant access to personnel records?

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Q. One of our former employees has asked to see his personnel file. Are we required to grant him access to it?

A. Yes, under California law, current and former employees (or their representatives) have the right to inspect and obtain a copy of their personnel files and records that are used or have been used to determine the employee’s qualifications for promotion, additional compensation or disciplinary action including termination.

These include the employee’s application for employment; payroll authorization form; notices of commendation, warning, discipline and termination; notices of layoff, leave of absence and vacation; notices of wage attachment or garnishment; records involving education and training; performance appraisals and reviews; and attendance records.

However, the right to inspect personnel files does not apply to everything in the file. For example, employees do not have a right to see letters of reference or records relating to the investigation of a possible criminal offense. In addition, employees do not have the right to access ratings, reports or records that were obtained prior to the worker’s employment, that were prepared by identifiable examination committee members or that were obtained in connection with a promotional examination.

Inspections must be allowed “at reasonable times and intervals” and within 30 days of an employee’s written request. Employers need only comply with a former employee’s request once a year.

A discharged employees’ right to inspect his or her personnel file only last until the statutes of limitations expires on any claims the former employee may have against the employer.

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