Not just anyone can have access to your personnel file.  Employee personnel files are considered to be private files that the employer must regulate access to.  Typically, an employer will have a policy as to who is allowed access to personnel files.  The individuals who are usually granted access are the employee’s immediate supervisor and the human resources manager, although they may be accessed by other people in the event of a civil or criminal lawsuit.

Do I Have a Right to Access My Own Personnel File?

Many states have laws that give an employee the right to see at least some of her personnel file.  How much of the personnel file an employee can see will depend on that state’s specific employment laws.  Some states may not have many restrictions, while others may restrict access to only those documents that the employee has signed.  Most states will not require employers to show employees sensitive information that might compromise another¿s privacy, such as what was written in a reference letter. Keep in mind, even when you are allowed access to your employee personnel files, your supervisor or someone else with the authority to view your file may monitor your viewing of the file to make sure you do not take anything or make any unauthorized changes to the file.

Can My Medical Records be Separated from My Personnel Files?

The American Disabilities Act and state laws impose strict limitations on how employee medical records can be handled.  Medical records must be kept separate from non-medical records, and no information from the medical records can be disclosed except:

  • Any accommodations the employee needs to perform her duties.
  • Any specific first aid and special evacuation procedures needed for the individual employee.
  • Medical information necessary for the employee to get health and life insurance.

What Can I Do if My Employer Accessed or Used My Personnel File in Illegally?

If you feel your employer has used your personnel file in a manner that violates state or federal law, you may want to consult an experienced workplace lawyer.  An employment lawyer can advise you of your rights and let know if you are entitled to monetary damages in a lawsuit against your employer.