Request Your Personnel File: 50 State Guide & Sample Letter


Throughout your K-12 education, your permanent record is held over your head as the ultimate threat – “Don’t misbehave or it will go on your permanent record!”. Locked away on school district servers are records that follow each student from school to school and district to district. Information like grades, test scores, previous disciplinary actions, and event notes on student potential. You never really knew what was in there because you weren’t allowed to see it, but you knew it existed.

Once you join the workforce your permanent record transforms into your personnel file and it holds a similar mystique. Employee records were once only available to HR members and are still highly confidential information that requires need-to-know access control.

No federal law exists to mandate employers allow their employees access to review their personnel file, but many states have enacted statutes. Only 7 states have no statutes for any employees while 19 states have statutes to provide all employees access to their personnel records, the remaining 24 states ensure access for employees in the public sector (as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia).

With each state developing their own approach, there is wide variation in the requirements: how much time the employer has to respond to a request (5 days in Massachusetts up to 45 days in Oregon), how to submit a request and if a written request is necessary, and what information is included/excluded from the review. We researched each state to get the latest information with links to the applicable statutes and references.

Why You Should Request to Your Personnel File

Your personnel file can have a big impact on your career and so its important that it is complete and correct. As with anything touched by people, the contents are subject to errors and omissions.

It is a good habit to review your personnel file every handful of years and especially as you approach potential advancement opportunities. Be proactive and check your personnel file to ensure there are not surprises lurking that could cause you to be passed over – it is much easier to fix issues before they become a problem. Also, review your personnel file after you are affected by an HR investigation or there is other turmoil in your department that may be misfiled.

Why You Should be Cautious When Requesting Your Personnel File

Even if you live in a state that does not guarantee employee access to their personnel files, your employer may still grant your request so you should absolutely ask. But before you do, be mindful that Human Resources does monitor requests as a leading indicator before a lawsuit so you don’t want to set off alarm bells.

We recommend either calling your HR representative, or better yet stop by their desk, and have a friendly conversation “Hey Karen, I saw a news article that most states allow employees access to review their personnel file and I think its a great idea to look for inaccuracies or incomplete information. What do I need to do to review my file?”.

Sample Email Letter to Request Your Personnel File and Employee Records

If your employer has a standard form to submit your request then you need to follow the established procedure. If not, it is always better to start with a friendly approach, and then you can move to a more formal approach only if necessary.

Re: Request for Personnel File Access

Hello [HR Representative]

I would like to review my employee personnel files and records relating to my performance and any grievance concerning me. Please let me know a time and location that I can review the files within the next few weeks. Contact me with any questions.

Thanks,

[Employee]

If your state does not have a statutory requirement that required your employer to provide the files for review then you can be persistent and continue the friendly approach. If you are in a state with a statute, you can follow-up with a formal request that makes it clear you will not be deterred:

Preview(opens in a new tab)

Re: Request for Personnel File Access

Hello [HR Representative]

I would like to review my employee personnel files and records relating to my performance and any grievance concerning me. Please make the files available as soon as possible.

Per [State Statute] employees have the right to access and review employee records within [xx] days of submitting a request.

Regards,

[Employee]

Alabama

Alabama statutes make no provisions for private employees to review their employee records or personnel files.

Per AL Code § 16-22-14, employees of public school districts in Alabama have a right to review and copy all documents in their files, as well as add written rebuttals to their personnel files. Employers must provide a copy of any disciplinary document to the employee within 10 days of when it is placed in their personnel file.

Alaska

Per AS 23.10.430., all employees and former employees are allowed to inspect or make copies of their own personnel files.

Arizona

Except for payroll records per AZ 23-364, Arizona statutes make no provisions for private employees to review their employee records or personnel files.

Per AZ R2-5A-105, public employees of the State of Arizona are guaranteed the right to review their personnel files.

Arkansas

Arkansas statutes make no provisions for private employees to review their employee records or personnel files.

Public employees have access to their personnel files under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, A.C.A. § 25-19-105.

California

Per California Labor Code Section 1198.5, all employees or former employees (for three years) are allowed to inspect or make copies of their own personnel files. Plain English guide with FAQ.

Colorado

Per C.R.S. 8-2-129, all employees are allowed to inspect and make copies of their personnel file at least annually upon request. Former employees have the right to inspect their personnel file one time within the first year after separation.

Connecticut

Per CT Gen Stat § 31-128b, all employees or former employees are allowed to inspect or make copies of their own personnel files. Former employees can access their personnel files for one year after separation.

Delaware

Per 19 DE Code § 732, employers are required to allow all employees to inspect their personnel files and take notes, but they are not required to allow the employee to make copies.

District of Columbia

District of Columbia statutes make no provisions for private employees to review their employee records or personnel files.

Under DC Code § 1–631.05, public employees in the District of Columbia are permitted to inspect their official employment records.

Florida

Florida statutes make no provisions for private employees to review their employee records or personnel files.

Public Employees: Public employees have the right to view their file and make copies under the Florida Public Records Act, FL Stat § 119. Public school system employees are covered under FL Stat § 1012.31.

Georgia

Georgia statutes make no provisions for any employees to review their employee records or personnel files. Upon termination of employment, personnel records of public employees are purged under O.C.G.A. § 45-1-5.

Hawaii

Hawaii statutes make no provisions for private employees to review their employee records or personnel files.

Public employees are granted access to their own personal record under the Hawaii Uniform Information Practices Act (UIPA), Chapter 92 Part III. Certain records are excluded – records pertaining to the prevention, control, or reduction of crime, records that would reveal the confidential identity of a source, and certain other restrictions listed in §92F-22.

Upon receipt of a written request, the agency is required to provide access and make a copy available within 10 business days. Employees have the right to correct factual errors and challenge content in their personal record and the agency has 30 business days to respond.

Follow theses instructions: Request to Access a Government Record

Idaho

Idaho statutes make no provisions for private employees to review their employee records or personnel files.

Public employees in Idaho, or their designated representatives, have access to their own personnel file upon request and can obtain copies of all materials (with the exception of recommendation letters) per §74-106 and §33-518 of Idaho statute.

Illinois

All employees in Illinois are granted access to their records under the Personnel Record Review Act (820 ILCS 40/), including former employees for a period of one year.

Employers are required to allow employees, or their designated representatives, access to their personnel files within 7 working days and may require the employee to submit a written request using a designated form. Employees can make copies of the content but the employer can charge for the cost of the copies.

Employees may request removal or correction of information in their personnel file. If mutual agreement can not be reached, the employee can submit a written statement explaining their position that the employer must attach to the disputed portion of the personnel record. The statement must be included whenever the disputed portion is released to a third party.

Current employees are allowed up to 2 inspection requests per year at reasonable intervals. Certain documents are excluded by Section 10, such as letters of recommendation and detailed test results

Indiana

Indiana statutes make no provisions for private employees to review their employee records or personnel files.

Public employees in Indiana have access to their personnel records under IC 5-14-3-4 and may receive a copy at no cost per State Personnel Department policy.

Iowa

All employees in Iowa are granted access to their personnel files under §91B.1, excluding employment references written for the employee. Employees are allowed to obtain copies but the employer may charge a fee equivalent to an amount charged per page for copies made by a commercial copying business.

Kansas

Kansas statutes make no provisions for private employees to review their employee records or personnel files.

Public employee records must be open for inspection, but under K.S.A. 45-221 personnel records, performance ratings or individually identifiable records are not required to be open. The following information is required to be disclosed: names, positions, salaries or actual compensation employment contracts, and lengths of service of officers and employees of public agencies.

Kentucky

Kentucky statutes make no provisions for private employees to review their employee records or personnel files.

Public employees of Kentucky are granted access to review and copy their full employee records under KRS § 18A.020 after submitting a written request. State employees are permitted to comment in writing on any item in their file, and their comments are attached to the specific record and added to their file.

Louisiana

Private employees in Louisiana do not have the right to view their personnel file unless an employee handbook specifically grants that right.

Public employees in Louisiana are granted access to their personnel file and employee records under several statutes: Law Enforcement Officers under RS § 40:2533, school employees and any nonclassified employees under RS § 17:1237, and fire employees under RS § 33:2183.

Maine

Under Title 26, §631 all employees in Maine (including former employees) are provided the opportunity to review and copy their personnel files after submitting a written request.

If the employer does not comply within 10 days of receiving a written request they are subject to a $25 fine per day (not to exceed $500) and may be sued for damages and attorney fees.

When requested by the employee, the employer is required to provide one copy of their entire personnel file each calendar year at no cost to the employee.

Maryland

Maryland statutes make no provisions for private employees to review their personnel records.

Public employees have the right to inspect their employee personnel records under GP § 4-311. Per the Maryland Public Information Act (PIA) and GP § 4-203, the custodian has 10 days to produce the record or respond to the request.

Massachusetts

Under MGL C.149 §52C, all employees in Massachusetts have the right to review their personnel records, or receive a copy, within 5 business days after submitting a written request. Employers are required to notify employees within 10 days of placing negative information within their personnel record.

Employers are not required to allow an employee to inspect their record on more than two separate occasions during a calendar year. However, an inspection caused by the placing of negative information in their personnel record shall not count against the two inspections.

Employees may request removal or correction of information in their personnel file. If mutual agreement can not be reached, the employee can submit a written statement explaining their position that the employer must attach to the disputed portion of the personnel record. The statement must be included whenever the disputed portion is released to a third party.

Michigan

In Michigan, the “Bullard-Plawecki Employee Right to Know Act” (MCL § 423.501 – 423.512) provides all employees the ability to review their personnel records at reasonable interviews, generally not more than two times per year. After the review, the employee is permitted to copy the records.

If the employee demonstrates that they are unable to review the records in person, the employer is obligated to mail them a copy after receiving a written request from the employee.

Employees may request removal or correction of information in their personnel file. If mutual agreement can not be reached, the employee can submit a written statement (not exceed 5 sheets of 8.5×11 inch paper) explaining their position that the employer must attach to the disputed portion of the personnel record. The statement must be included whenever the disputed portion is released to a third party.

Minnesota

Under Minnesota law § 181.961, all employees are permitted to review their personnel record once ever six months after submitting a written request. After the review, employees may submit a written request for a copy of the record that the employer shall provide.

Former employees are allowed to inspect their record once each year after separation for as long as the personnel record is maintained. Alternatively, former employees may submit a written request for the employer to provide a copy of their personnel record.

Mississippi

Mississippi statutes make no provisions for any employees to review their personnel records. Personnel records are exempt from the Mississippi Public Records Act of 1983 under Miss. Code Ann. § 25-1-100

Missouri

Missiouri was one of the earliest advocates of the open records act, signing RSMO Chapter 610 into law in 1973. Despite this fact, Missouri statutes make no provisions for employees to review their personnel records. Records relating to the hiring, firing, disciplining, or promoting of particular employees by a public governmental body are considered personal information and are closed records per RSMO § 610.021.

Montana

Montana statutes make no provisions for private employees to access their personnel records.

Montana public employees have access to their personnel records under Rule 2.21.6615. Employees are permitted to file a written response to the information contained in their personnel records within ten working days of the date when the employee is made aware of the information and their written response becomes a permanent part of the personnel record.

Nebraska

Nebraska statutes make no provisions for private employees to access their personnel records.

Under Nebraska Code § 79-8,109, full-time employees of public school districts shall have access to their personnel file maintained by the district and shall have the right to attach a written response to any item in the file.

Nevada

Under NRS § 613.075, all employees are allowed to inspect and obtain a copy of their personnel records by submitting a written request. Employees may submit change requests in writing to correct inaccurate or incomplete information in their records and may also submit a written explanation of reasonable length in direct response to any written entry in their records of employment.

Upon termination of employment, an employer shall allow an employee to inspect the employee’s records of employment within 60 days after his or her termination of employment and shall, if requested by that former employee within that period, furnish the former employee with a copy of those records.

New Hamshire

New Hampshire grants all employees the right to inspect their personnel files and obtain a copy under RSA § 275:56.

Employers are not required to disclose information in the personnel file if the employee is the subject of an investigation and disclosure of the information would prejudice law enforcement, or if the information is relating to a government security investigation.

If an employee disagrees with any information contained in their file they can request removal or correction of the information. If an agreement cannot be reached, the employee may submit a written statement explaining their version of the information, with supporting evidence, that must be maintained as part of the employee’s personnel file.

New Jersey

New Jersey does not have a law requiring general access to personnel files for any employees. However, in connection with state agency investigations, employers may be required to submit information concerning employment records of employees per N.J.A.C. § 13:4-4.2.

New Mexico

New Mexico statutes make no provisions for any employees to access their personnel records. NM Stat § 14-2-1 excludes matters of opinion in personnel files from disclosure under the Inspection of Public Records Act (IRPA); meaning that internal evaluations, disciplinary reports, information regarding promotion/demotion or termination, or performance evaluations are not required to be disclosed. However, factual information in the file such as salary, annual leave, or conflicts of interest is not similarly protected.

New York

Currently, only public employees of New York are granted access to their personnel files under PBO § 89.2.(c). Public officers are allowed access to records pertaining to themselves after providing reasonable proof of their identity.

Assembly Bill A4836 and Senate Bill S5044 are active in the New York legislature and would provide public and private employees the right to review their personnel file.

North Carolina

North Carolina statutes make no provisions for private employees to access their personnel records.

All current and former employees have access to certain records, such as records that indicate their own exposure to toxic materials or harmful physical agents under G.S. § 95-143..

All public employees in North Carolina (current and former) are able to access their own personnel records under G.S. § 126-24., with the exception of letters of reference solicited prior to employment and information concerning a medical disability that a prudent physician would not divulge to a patient.

North Carolina has several statutes that apply to various groups and areas but all contain substantially similar language as § 126-24..

North Dakota

North Dakota statutes make no provisions for private employees to access their personnel records.

Public employees in North Dakota are granted access to their employee records under NDCC § 54-06-21. Employees can access their records by appointment during normal business hours. The review must be supervised and employees have the right to answer any material filed and their answers must be attached to the file copy. Employees can obtain a copy of any document if requested and employers may charge a reasonable fee.

Ohio

Ohio statutes make no provisions for private employees to review their personnel records.

However, under Ohio Revised Code § 3701.74, all employees in Ohio have the right to access their own medical records – including any records from a physical exam required by their employer or from an exam as a result of an injury or disease relating from their job.

Ohio public employees have access to their personnel files under the Ohio Public Records Act, codified in Ohio Revised Code § 149.43. A number of entities have clarified the requirements and procedures within the Ohio Administrative Code (§ 3349-7-5, § 3357:12-3-20, § 3364-25-04, § 5122-26-06). For example, several universities stipulate that employees can access their personnel records one time per year after submitting a written request.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma statutes make no provisions for private employees to review their personnel records.

Unless made confidential by another statute, public employees in Oklahoma are granted access to their own personnel file and may obtain copies under O.S. § 24A.7.

Oregon

Under ORS § 652.750, all employees in Oregon are allowed to inspect their personnel records within 45 days after making a request and must provide a certified copy (employers are allowed to charge for the actual cost of providing the service).

The personnel file includes records used to determine the employee’s qualification for employment, promotion, additional compensation, employment termination or other disciplinary action, and time and pay records of the employee. Records relating to the conviction, arrest, or investigation of a criminal law or confidential reports from previous employers are not required to be disclosed.

Employers are required to keep records of terminated employees for a period of 60 days.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania grants all employees (but not former employees) access to review their personnel file under 43 P.S. §§ 1322-1324. Employees, and/or their designated agent, are allowed to inspect their personnel files at least once per year. Employers may require a written request that specifies the purpose of the review or the particular parts of record the employee wishes to inspect.

Copying the files is at the employer’s discretion, but employees are allowed to take notes and the employer may have a representative present during the review.

The records must be made available at the location during normal business hours and at the location where the records are normally kept. Employers are not required to allow inspection during the employee’s regular workday nor are they required to make the file available outside of normal business hours.

Files and records related to the employee’s qualifications for employment, promotion, additional compensation, termination or disciplinary action are included in the personnel file. However, the following records are not subject to review: records of an employee relating to the investigation of a possible criminal offense, letters of reference, documents which are being developed or prepared for use in civil, criminal or grievance procedures, medical records or materials which are used by the employer to plan for future operations or information available to the employee under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico statutes make no provisions for private employees to review their personnel records.

Public employees in Puerto Rico are granted the right to inspect their own personnel file under 21 L.P.R.A. § 4572.

Rhode Island

All employees in Rhode Island have the right to inspect their personnel files under RI Gen L § 28-6.4-1. After receipt of a written request, employers must provide the files within 7 business days at a time other than the employee’s work hours.

Employers must have a representative present at the review and are not required to allow employees to make copies, but if copies are supplied the employer may charge a reasonable fee.

The employee is allowed to review records used to determine that their qualifications for employment, promotion, additional compensation, termination, or disciplinary action. The following records are excluded from review: records relating to the investigation of a possible criminal offense or records prepared for use in any civil, criminal, or grievance proceedings; any letter of reference, recommendations, managerial records kept or used only by the employer; confidential reports from previous employers, and managerial planning records.

Employees are permitted to inspect their records on at least three occasions per calendar year.

South Carolina

South Carolina statutes make no provisions for any employees to review their personnel records. Senate Bill 1045 was introduced in 1996 to establish employee rights to review and obtain copies of their personnel file, but it died in committee.

All current and former employees have access to certain records, such as records that indicate their own exposure to toxic materials or harmful physical agents under SC Code § 41-15-100.

South Dakota

South Dakota statutes make no provisions for private employees to review their personnel records.

Under SD Codified L § 3-6C-24, all records that pertain to public-sector employees, including performance appraisals, shall be open to inspection by the employee during normal business hours.

Tennessee

Tennessee statutes make no provisions for private employees to review their personnel records.

Tenn. Code Ann. § 8-50-108 states that any state employee is entitled to access their employee personnel file, and may obtain copies after paying for the cost of reproduction.

Texas

Texas statutes make no provisions for private employees to review their personnel records.

Public Employees have access to their employee personnel records under the Texas Public Information Act (Tex. Gov’t Code § 552.023(a). and Tex. Att’y Gen. ORD-288 (1981).).

The Texas Municipal League maintains excellent reference information regarding the Public Information Act with common scenarios and relevant resources.

Utah

Utah statutes make no provisions for private employees to review their personnel records.

Under Utah Code 67-18, public employees have the right to examine and make copies of their own personnel files, with the cost of copying paid by the employee.

Vermont

Vermont statutes make no provisions for private employees to review their personnel records.

Under 1 V.S.A. § 317, all information in personnel files of an employee of any public agency shall be made available to that individual employee or their designated representative.

Virginia

Under Virginia Code § 8.01-413.1, all employees (both current and former) have the right to obtain copies of records that “reflect” the employee’s dates of employment, wages or salary during employment, job description and title, and any injuries the employee sustained during the course of their employment with the employer. Employers must provide the records within 30 days of receiving the request and may charge a reasonable copying fee.

Washington

All employees in Washington have the right to review their personnel records under RCW §§ 49.12.240 through 49.12.260. Employees have the right to correct or rebut any information contained in their personnel file or reference information given to persons outside of the company.

Employers must allow at least one review per year and former employee retain their right of rebuttal or correction for a period of two years.

Records relating to the investigation of a possible criminal offense records or records compiled in preparation for an impending lawsuit which would not be available to another party under the rules of pretrial discovery are not subject to review.

West Virginia

West Virginia statutes make no provisions for any employees to review their personnel files.

Wisconsin

Under Wisconsin § 103.13, all employees (and former employees) have the right to review their personnel files. The employer may require a written request and has 7 days after receipt to make the documents available. Employees may inspect any personnel documents which are used or which have been used in determining their qualifications for employment, promotion, transfer, additional compensation, termination or other disciplinary action.

Employees may request correction of removal of information from their file as mutually agreed with their employer. If an agreement cannot be reached, the employee may submit a written statement explaining their position that must remain attached to the disputed portion of their personnel record.

Wyoming

Wyoming statutes make no provisions for private employees to review their personnel records.

Wyoming public employees are granted access to review their personnel file under Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-203, including application information, performance ratings, and scholastic achievement.

Dan Sawyer

Founding editor and head writer of ExpertEmployee.com. Dan is a job interview and career expert, with more than 20 years of experience in senior roles at high tech leaders Space Exploration Technologies and Samsung Austin Semiconductor.

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