As of January 1, 2013, California law has given each Californian the right as a current and former employee to inspect and receive a copy of the personnel files and records associated with the employee's performance or to any grievance related to the employee. The employee may appoint an agent or representative to inspect these files and records.
To facilitate an employee’s inspection of personnel files and records, an employer in California must take all the following actions:
- Maintain a copy of each employee’s personnel records for no less than 3 years.
- Make a current employee’s personnel records available, and if requested by the employee or representative, provide a copy at the place where the employee reports to work or at another location agreeable to the employer and the requester.
- Make a former employee’s personnel records available, and if requested by the employee or representative, provide a copy at the location where the employer stores the records unless the parties mutually agree in writing to a different location.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about personnel records and California employment law.
*When do I have the right to inspect my personnel file?
You may inspect your personnel file/records at reasonable times and intervals, but not later than 30 calendar days from the date the employer receives your written request. Your employer must provide a copy of the personnel records, at a charge not to exceed the actual cost of reproduction, not less than 30 calendar days from the date the employer receives your request.
*Do I need to put my request to inspect my personnel file in writing?
Yes. Your employer is required to make your personnel records available within 30 calendar days from the date the employer receives a written request for inspection.
*If I am on a leave of absence or have quit my job, do I still have the right to inspect my personnel files?
Yes, in both instances. California law considers an “employee” "Employee" a person who is currently employed, one who is laid off with rights of reemployment, a person on leave of absence, or a former employee.
*Is my employer required to give me a copy of my personnel file?
Yes. Once you make a written request, your employer must provide a copy of your personnel file, at a cost not to exceed the actual reproduction costs. Your employer must provide these copies no later than 30 calendar days from the date the employer receives your request. A former employee may receive a copy by mail but must reimburse the employer for any postage expenses.
*Am I entitled to see everything in my personnel file?
No. California law limits the right to inspect as inapplicable to:
- Records relating to the investigation of a possible criminal offense.
- Letters of reference.
- Ratings, reports, or records that were:
a. Obtained before employment,
b. Prepared by identifiable examination committee members, or
c. Obtained in connection with a promotional examination.
*What types of records in my personnel file am I entitled to see?
California law considers certain categories of records as "personnel records." These are records used to determine an employee's qualifications for promotion, additional compensation, or disciplinary action.
*If I ask and make a written request of my employer under California law to inspect my personnel file and my employer refuses my request, what are my options?
You should then contact the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) and file a claim for a $750.00 penalty against your employer for failure to comply with Labor Code § 1198.5. You should also contact an employment law attorney as soon as possible. Moss Bollinger provides free consultations and will answer your questions to help you determine if your employer has denied you any other valuable rights under federal and California law. An employee may also bring a civil action for injunctive relief to order compliance and recover reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.
If you believe that your employer is violating your rights, call Moss Bollinger for a free consultation to discuss solutions for asserting and defending these important, valuable rights. Moss Bollinger takes great pride in holding employers accountable for workplace violations that infringe upon the protections afforded every California worker by the State of California. Contact Moss Bollinger today at 866-942-7974 or reach us online.