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Employee Right - Personnel Files

A personnel file is a historical log or record of information pertaining to a staff employee from the date of hire, identified by the person's name or by any number or symbol corresponding to that name.

The personnel file contains Job-related materials, including information on the employee’s employment relationship, such as his/her job application, offer letter, and acceptance letter; the job description and performance expectations; development records, such as training, education, and degrees; performance records, such as appraisals, counseling memos, disciplinary letters, special awards, or commendation letters; time and attendance records; emergency data; and personnel action forms.

Federal and state laws deal with the confidentiality of personnel files and employees’ access to personnel files. The personnel file should not contain employees’ medical records. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to keep employees' medical records confidential and separate from personnel files. The Privacy Act forbids federal government employers from disclosing any information contained in the employee’s files without his/her written consent. Federal government workers have access to their personal records, and the law also permits them to make a copy of any portion of the documents.

The personnel file should not contain records of the employee that relate 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; materials which are used by the employer to plan for future operations; or information available to the employee under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

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