The Right of California Employees to Inspect their Personnel Records and Files

According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, employees and former employees, since January 1, 2013, have the right to review their personnel records and also receive a copy of their files. The files should relate to the worker’s performance or any grievances involving the employee.

When a request is made in writing, the employee or a representative should be given his/her personnel files within 30 days of the request. The employer can charge for the cost of reproduction.

Employers are required to:

  • Keep personnel records for at least three years from the last date of employment
  • Make the records available to be inspected or given a copy – at work or another agreed upon location
  • Employees should not lose compensation because of the time they need to review the records

Former employees can only request to see their employment files once a year. If the former employee was discharged because he/she violated a law or employment policy involving workplace violence or harassment, the employer can make the records available by mail or at a reasonable site away from the workplace.

The employer penalty for failing to comply with a reasonable request is:

  • $750
  • Injunctive relief to force the employer to reveal the records
  • Reasonable legal fees
  • Court costs

There are some exceptions. Current or former employees don’t have the right to review records that relate to a possible criminal charge, reference letters, ratings, or records that were:

  • Obtained before the employment relationship started
  • Were prepared in connection with a promotion
  • Or for other limited reasons

If a valid collective bargaining agreement covers the employee, then the employee has to look to that agreement to see if he/she can seed the records.

The right to review records includes the right to examine payroll records. If the employer does not allow the payroll review within a reasonable time or 21 days, whichever is longer, the employee can seek relief in court with the help of an experienced California employee rights attorney. The right to review the payroll records includes the right to understand how the pay was calculated. Employees also have the right to examine records that might indicate exposure to toxic materials.

Reviewable records include:

  • The job application
  • Payroll authorization
  • Education and training records
  • Notices of commendation, discipline, or termination
  • Wage attachments and garnishments
  • Performance reviews
  • Attendance reports

*Employees are entitled to these personnel records pursuant to Labor Code 1198.5; all signed writings (such as warnings, arbitration agreements, etc) pursuant to Labor Code 432; and all payroll records pursuant to Labor Code 226.

For helping getting injunctive relief to get your records, forcing the employer to pay the penalty for noncompliance, and getting your legal fees paid, please phone Stephen Danz & Associates at 877-789-9707 to arrange a consultation.