State Laws Govern Access to Personnel Files — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily
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Q. What's the law on letting employees review all their personnel files? Can we prevent it? —J.S., Utah

A. Employees' rights to review their personnel files vary. In some states, employees have an absolute right to review their files; in others they don't. In Utah, public employees have the right to examine and make copies of documents in their own personnel files. But there is no such Utah law governing private employees.

So if you're a private employer and an employee asks to review his or her own personnel files, you can simply say no. However, as with all your employment practices, be consistent to avoid discrimination claims. (To find out your state law, check with your state labor department.)

Also, be aware that recordkeeping requirements are on the rise. In addition to knowing which records to keep, you must know where to maintain them. In general, you should keep information related to hiring, performance evaluation, training, promotion, demotion or firing in the employee's personnel file. Keep medical data, I-9 forms and garnishment orders separate from the personnel file. And keep copies of employment agreements and waivers in the worker's personnel file even though it's not required by law.

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