Giving an EE a copy of his EE file

I am not an HR professional and this is a small company; has only been in business about 5yrs.  On Tuesday, we gave out new employee handbooks (this company has never had an employee handbook).  It isn't very thorough and now, I am being bombarded by all sorts of questions from 'what is the policy on ee tools/er tools' to 'why do I have to accrue sick time b/f I use it' and then someone asked "can I get a copy of my employee file"...So my question is "what do I give him"....everything?<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />


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  • Law on personnel files and what the employee MUST have access to are state specific. What state are you in?


  • Hi, I am in Santa Monica, California.
  • Hi Sheila:

    California law requires that employees may, at reasonable times and intervals, inspect any of their personnel files relating to the employee's performance or to any grievance concerning the employee. Specifically, such records include applications, payroll authorization forms, notices of commendation, warning, discipline, or termination; notices of layoff, leave of absence, or vacation; notices of wage attachment or garnishment; education and training records; performance reviews; and attendance records. Employers are not required to disclose records relating to the investigation of possible criminal offenses; letters of reference; or ratings, reports, or records that were obtained prior to the employee's employment, prepared by identifiable examination committee members, or obtained in connection with a promotional examination. Former employees have the right of inspection until the statute of limitations on any claims they may have against their former employer expires.

         Access to records need not be during work time. However, employers must:

          • Keep a copy of each employee's personnel file at the employee's workplace;
          • Make the employee's personnel record available where the employee works within a reasonable period of time following the employee's request; or
          • Allow the employee to inspect his or her personnel file at the location at which the files are stored with no loss of compensation to the employee.

         Employers are not required to provide employees with a copy of their entire personnel files. However, the law does require that, upon request, employees be given a copy of any instrument they signed relating to the obtaining or holding of employment. Additionally, an employee may take notes regarding any document in his or her personnel file (CA Lab. Code Sec. 1198.5).


  • To answer your other questions, just answer them as best you can and seek out answers to questions that aren't part of what you would/should know.  You may discover that some parts of the handbook are too ambiguous <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />and needs to be updated with additional details.
  • Yep, I am going to work on Policies regarding tool, ect.  And I will speak to an attorney regarding sick time, etc.  I don't know the laws, but I can tell you that this forum has been so helpful to me; I get most of my answers from here.  One of my hats here and I have many, is the HR part.....there is only 9 employees, so hiring someone for each of my hats would be asinine and not very cost effective.  So.....everyday is a learning experience. 

  • There are a lot of HR companies out there that can help you with a lot of your questions and putting together a handbook.  They can also help you with the trickier aspects of HR.  For example, you need to investigate an employee for sexual harrasment or you need to do a difficult termination.  They will partner with you and walk you through the process.  Check out your local Human Resources Association they can be a great resource for you.  Good luck!
  • Here's another hint in the handbook game: it is always less expensive to have your law firm / HR Services organization provide you with a handbook than to have them review one you have already made.  It's less expensive even if they ahve to write some policies specific to your industry that they didn't have before or modify some that they already have to meet your needs.  If you end up starting operations outside of California as well, consider whether or not you want to make a 49 state handbook for non-California employees.  I've generally been in the other situation, where we have a 49 state handbook and then make a California Employees addendum.  There are a variety of notifications and laws for Californian employees that have no relevance to anybody in the rest of the world.

  • I wanted to see if anyone had seen a chart for laws on employees viewing and receiving a copy of their personnel file by state.


  • Hi IT--BLR has a state comparison chart on recordkeeping requirements that you can access at The column on the far right summarizes laws related to employee access to personnel files.

  • [quote user="IT HR"] I wanted to see if anyone had seen a chart for laws on employees viewing and receiving a copy of their personnel file by state.


    Other HR professional organizations' web sites have this sort of information.  I would expect that the BLR compliance info site has it somewhere but I don't use that product right now because we have a similar product through our HRIS/Payroll solution.

  • Along this line, can an ex-employee ask to have copies of previous reviews?  I am in Pa and just read the chart on BLR website that tells what documents they can access.  But this is a situation where they are now not working for the company.
  • PA code says:

    "1322 - 1323 An employer shall, at reasonable times, upon request of an employee, permit the employee or an agent designated by the employee to inspect his or her own personnel files used to determine his or her own qualifications for employment, promotion, additional compensation, termination or disciplinary action. The employer shall make these records available during the regular business hours of the office where these records are usually and ordinarily maintained, when sufficient time is available during the course of a regular business day, to inspect the personnel files in question. The employer may require the requesting employee or the agent designated by the employee to inspect such records on the free time of the employee or agent. At the employer's discretion, the employee may be required to file a written form to request access to the personnel file or files or to indicate a designation of agency for the purpose of file access and inspection. This form is solely for the purpose of identifying the requesting individual or the designated agent of the requesting individual to avoid disclosure to ineligible individuals. To assist the employer in providing the correct records to meet the employer's need, the employee shall indicate in his written request, either the purpose for which the inspection is requested, or the particular parts of his personnel record which he wishes to inspect or have inspected by the employee's agent. Nothing in this act shall be construed as a requirement that an employee be permitted to remove his personnel file, any part thereof, or copy of the contents of such file from the place of the employer's premises where it is made available for inspection. The taking of notes by employees is permitted. The employer shall retain the right to protect his files from loss, damage or alteration to insure the integrity of the files. The employer may require inspection of the personnel file in the presence of a designated official. The employer must allow sufficient inspection time, commensurate with the volume content of the file. Except for reasonable cause the employer may limit inspection to once every calendar year."


    I'm not an attorney.

    I don't see it saying anything about "former employee".  However, as another participant mentioned elsewhere, it does mention termination action, which may open the door to involuntarily separated former employees and you need to speak with counsel familliar with PA law to see if that's an issue or not.

  • Thank you TXHRGuy.  I appreciate your help.  I will follow-up with our attorney.   
  • Let us know what you find out.  This has come up before and, while I'd always seek my own local counsel, I'm always happy to learn by osmosis through someone else's legal budget.   [:D]
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