One repeat question that I seem to receive is whether employees have a right to see their personnel files. At least in Ohio, the answer is “no”—with three key exceptions:
Medical Records. Ohio Revised Code 4113.23(A) provides employees access to their own medical records from physical examinations either that are required for employment or stem from a job-related injury or disease.
Wage & Hour Records. Ohio Revised Code 4111.14(G) provides employees (or their designated representative) access to their own wage and hour records, which must include their rate of pay, total gross wages per pay period, and hours worked each day.
Public Employees. Ohio Revised Code 149.43 provides employees of the state, or any county, city, village, township, or school district, access to their personnel files as public records.
Mileage may vary in your jurisdiction. According to The HR Café, 20 states require that employers provide employees periodic access to their personnel files. Thus, it is critical that you have a policy establishing rights and expectations in relation to personnel files. Something as simple as, “The Company will provide employees access to personnel files according to state law,” should suffice.
Also, unless a state law provides otherwise, if you permit access to personnel files you should make the following internal decisions about their handling:
- Will you permit access to an entire file, or only certain parts?
- Will you permit employees to photocopy parts of their files?
- Will you permit employees to designate their right to inspect (for example, to a family member, union rep, or lawyer)?
- Will you permit employees to challenge information, and if so, how?
- Will you place limits on access to confidential information (i.e., background checks or workplace investigation reports)?
- Will you limit how often an employee can access a personnel file?