Does My Employer Have the Right to Inspect Personnel Files in California?

In the recent past, the state of California reviewed its legislation regarding the right to inspect personnel files. This was particularly to allow the employees access to their records. The new law stipulates that an employee or a representative (current and former) has the right to receive and inspect a copy of personnel records and files that relate to their performance and any other grievances.

A current or former employee or representative should receive a copy of their records by writing a request to the employer. This should not take more than 3o calendar days and should not cost more than reproduction cost.

Inspection Rules

To make inspection possible, employers should:

(1) Keep an employee’s records for a minimum of three years after termination of working relationship.

(2) Have current records of an employee for inspection purposes and upon request by a representative or the employee, he or she must provide a copy of the records to the employees’ place of work otherwise to a location agreeable to the requester or the employee

(3) Have former employees records available for inspection purposes and provide a copy if requested by an employee or representative where they store records or at an agreeable location by both parties in writing.

Employer Compliance with Personnel Files

An employer is to comply only once a year with a previous employees’ request to receive or inspect a copy of their personnel records. A copy of the records can be availed to the employee by mail if they agree to reimburse actual postage charges incurred by the employer. An employer should not comply with more than 50 requests by previous employees to avail copies of their personnel records in a single calendar month.

The employer may take reasonable measure to ascertain the identity of the employer (current or former) or the representative. Before handing over the records for inspection, the employer can obscure the name of non-supervisory employee(s)

Termination and Personnel Files

In case a former employee was terminated because they violated employment relate policy that involved workplace violence or harassment, the employer can comply with their request to inspect personal records by:

(1) Availing the records to the former employee at a place other than the workplace that is reasonably accessible by driving from the employees’ place of residence.

(2) Mail a copy of the personal records to the employee.

If the employer does not allow a current or former employee or a representative to have a copy or inspect the personnel records within the mutually agreed or specified times, the current or former employee or the labor commissioner can recover $750 from the employer as a penalty.

Rights to inspect personal files do not relate to reports, records, crime investigations, letter of reference and ratings that:

(1) Were obtained before the employee’s employment.

(2) Were obtained I regard to a promotional exam.

(3) Were prepared by examination committee members who can be identified.