First, it is important to note that not everyone has access to employment records and personal work records of an individual. Although it may seem obvious an individual’s personnel file from their employment may contain a number of different information which may be considered to be confidential whether under federal or local laws.
Examples of information that is commonly considered to be confidential that is present in an individual’s personnel file include:
- An individual’s date of birth, including copies of an individual’s birth certificate that may have been used during the hiring phase of their employment;
- An individual’s social security number, including copies of an individual’s social security card that may have been used during the hiring phase of their employment;
- An individual’s driver’s license number, including copies of an individual’s driver’s license card that may have been used during the hiring phase of their employment;
- An individual’s passport, including copies of an individual’s passport that may have been used during the hiring phase of their employment;
- The home address for an individual, which may be included on hiring documents, their resume used in the hiring process, or checks;
- Any and all medical information concerning the individual.
- It is important to note that with many employers mandating covid vaccines, the information concerning whether or not an individual received the covid vaccine still falls under the federal and local protections concerning a person’s right to medical privacy;
- It is important to also note that medical insurance received through one’s employer, and who is covered by such insurance, is also private information that is not entitled to anyone outside of the individual, without first obtaining their prior approval to release such confidential information;
- Information identifying the personal information of an individual’s family, including whether or not the individual is married or has children;
- Information concerning an individual’s professional licenses, especially information concerning an individual’s license information in the law enforcement field;
- Any other identifying information for the individual, such as their
- Email addresses;
- Personal telephone numbers;
- Insurance information;
- Bank information; or
- Vehicle identification numbers.
As can be seen, the amount of information that is contained in a person’s personnel file can include many pieces of information that an individual would want to keep private. Typically, the only people that have access to such information are the employee themselves, the employee’s immediate supervisor, or the human resources department.
However, there are certain situations in which another person may access the information including:
- When the employee gives their written consent for another person to access their personnel file, such as written consent given to an attorney during a civil lawsuit or when the employee is wishing to be hired at another position; or
- When a third party makes a written request for the information under the federal Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), or another local public information act, such as the Texas Public Information Act (“PIA”), which both allow a third party to request the disclosure of certain information concerned with a member of the federal, state, or local government.
- It is important to note that both Acts require that a request be made, and then the parties that hold the information must make certain required redactions prior to releasing the information to the member of the public that requested such information; and
- It is also important to note that certain organizations, such as law enforcement organizations or military organizations have special rights in accessing protected information when considering an individual’s application to such organizations.