Are departing employees legally allowed to demand a copy of their personnel files?

Q. If an employee is leaving the company and they request to take with them a copy of their complete personnel file, do they have the right to receive it?  If so, does that include all records from their separate medical file and any confidential files?

A. Upon written request, departing employees have the right under Minnesota’s Personnel Records statute to receive copies of their personnel file.

This is not a request you need to address as the em­­ployee is walking out the door. The former employee must be given a copy within seven working days of the request (14 if the records are located out of state).  

Former employees also have the right to review a copy of their personnel records once a year for as long as the former employer maintains those records. In addition, current employees have the right to review their personnel records once every six months.

Since requests like these can be a signal that the former employee might be preparing to sue you, it is wise to consult your attorney.

The statute defines the types of information that qualify as a “personnel record.” Medical records are not personnel records and need not be disclosed (in fact, in accordance with the Minnesota Human Rights Act, these records should be maintained in a separate confidential file).  

Written comments or data authored by and kept in the sole possession of a supervisor or executive, administrative or professional employee may also be kept confidential. Other types of “confidential files” may or may not fall within the definition of the records employers are required to produce.