Do California Employees Have the Right to See Their Personnel Files?
Yes, California employees have the right to review their personnel files. Under California law, employers must allow employees to inspect their own personnel records upon request. Employees can request to see their personnel files for any reason, and they do not need to give a specific reason for their request.
What’s in a Personnel File?
A personnel file often contains only information provided by the employee (such as contact information) and documents employees have seen in the course of their employment (such as performance evaluations).
Sometimes, however, personnel files may contain information that employees have never seen before, such as references from previous employers, comments from customers or clients, notes from coaching or disciplinary meetings, or memos from management regarding an employee’s performance or productivity. When employment conflicts arise, or when an employee is demoted, moved, or dismissed, the personnel file frequently contains critical information regarding the circumstances that led to the problems.
Why Would an Employee Request Their Personnel File?
There are a few reasons why an employee might request their personnel file. One reason could be to review their employment history or to check on the accuracy of the information contained therein. Additionally, an employee might need certain documents from their personnel file for purposes such as applying for a mortgage or other loan. In some cases, an employee may simply be curious about what is contained in their file.
Obtaining a copy of your personnel file is the most effective approach to learn what information your current or previous employer knows about you, as well as what information could be passed on to future employers. It is also possible that your personnel file will be used as evidence in a lawsuit against your employer for reasons such as discrimination, wage violations, or wrongful termination.
Employees have a right to request and review their personnel files, and employers are typically required to grant this request within a reasonable timeframe. However, there may be certain documents that the employer is not required to provide, such as performance reviews or medical records. It is important for employees to know what they are entitled to so they can make an informed request.
Employees should be aware that their personnel files may contain both positive and negative information. However, California law prohibits employers from including certain types of information in personnel files. For example, employers cannot include information about an employee’s race, religion, or political views in their personnel file.
If you are an employee who is considering requesting your personnel file, it is a good idea to speak with your HR department first. They can let you know what to expect and help facilitate the process.
What if My Employer Refuses My Request?
If an employer refuses to allow an employee to inspect their personnel files, the employee can file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The Department will investigate the complaint and may take action against the employer. However, we highly suggest you have your claim reviewed by an employment law attorney before you go directly to DFEH. We offer FREE case reviews!
California Employment Law Firm That Represents Employees
If you have been denied access to your personnel files, or if you have any questions about your rights as an employee in California, or if you believe your employer has unlawfully included certain information in your file, contact the experienced employment lawyers at Potter Handy Law Firm.
Potter Handy Law Firm is a leading California employment law firm that represents employees in all types of disputes with their employers. We have a proven track record of success in these cases, and we are here to help you.