HUMAN RESOURCES LAW: PERSONNEL FILES

Can I see my personnel file?
Under California law, you have the right, under most circumstances, to view your personnel file.

What law gives me the right to review my personnel file?
California Labor Code Section 1198.5 gives private employees the right to view, but not necessarily obtain a copy of, their personnel files. Private employees are also generally entitled to a copy of any document they have signed. California Labor Code Section 432.

Are all employers obliged to disclose personnel files?
No. Section 1198.5 does not apply to public employers. This means that this law does not apply to state agencies, school districts, or other public entities.

When can I view my personnel record?
Section 1198.5 gives private employees the right, under most circumstances, to view their personnel files at all reasonable times. What is considered reasonable will depend on factors such as where the file is kept, how it is stored and when you make the request for the file. An employer is not required to produce your file for review during times that you are actually working.

Are there parts of my personnel file my employer can legally prevent me from seeing?
California Labor Code Section 1198.5 states that an employer may lawfully refuse to disclose records relating to the investigation of a possible criminal offense. An employer may also refuse to disclose letters of reference as well as particular “ratings and reports.”

What if my employer refuses to let me see my personnel file, even after reasonable notice?
California law explains that a violation of Section 1198.5 (above) is a misdemeanor and may be punished by a substantial fine.

Who do I talk to if my employer violates the law and will not let me see my personnel file?
If your employer violates the law regarding your personnel file, you may contact the California Department of Industrial Relations or an attorney knowledgeable in employment law.

These questions and answers are for educational purposes only and cover just a few topics that are commonly of interest to workers. This material should not be construed as legal advice, the establishment of an attorney-client relationship, or as indicative of a particular outcome regarding any legal issue you might have.