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Employee Access to Personnel File Policy

Author: Deborah S. Hildebrand

When to Use

Federal law does not govern the right to access personnel files; that is governed by state law. Some state laws provide employees with the right to have access to their own personnel files not only while employed, but after termination of employment as well, until the applicable statute of limitations runs out on any possible legal claims. While employers should check with their state laws to determine specific guidelines and requirements for such a policy, some employers may wish to allow employees access to their personnel files in order to build a level of trust and openness that is important in the workplace. Additionally, employers should have a well-written policy regarding the actual process for accessing personnel files, if such access is required or desired. This allows the employer to control the circumstances of when, how and where employees view their personnel files without compromising policy or state law.

Employers should communicate this policy to employees at the commencement of employment. Employers should ensure that employees sign and acknowledge that they have received and understand the policy. Employers should also ensure that a copy of the acknowledgement form is kept in each employee's personnel file.