Federal law does not require employers to maintain personnel files or to allow you to view your file. Some states require that you have access to your personnel file. If your employer reprimands you or “writes you up,” he may keep a record of it in your personnel file, but it is not required. Even if your Texas employer keeps write-ups in your personnel records, you may not be able to review them unless you are a public employee.
Some employers make notes or file forms in the personnel file for infractions by an employee. A “write-up” is the common term for this in Texas. The employer may have the employee sign the form, acknowledging the infraction. Some employers don’t let you know if they have written you up. With discrimination lawsuits and unemployment compensation issues, the employee may desire to see the information in her personnel file. Texas does not require employers to provide you copies of your personnel file or write-ups unless you work for a government agency.
Public employees can receive copies of their personnel file documents through the Public Information Act. You must request the information in writing and ask for documents already in existence. A government agency has no obligation to develop information or compile records for you. The agency is given a reasonable amount of time to produce the records, and must notify the Texas Attorney General’s office if it is not going to produce your personnel file documents. It may ask for clarification, but it may not ask why you need the file.
Requesting Your File
Texas leaves the personnel file request and production process up to the employer and employee. The employer must keep your personnel file confidential -- accessible only to employees who have need for the information. Medical information must be filed separately in accordance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Some employers allow an employee a review of the personnel file at separation from employment. You can request a copy or ask to review your file during employment or after separation. If you file a lawsuit against your employer for any reason, your personnel file may be the subject of a production request or a subpoena.
Maintaining Personnel Files
Employment law attorneys in Texas recommend that Texas employers keep personnel files for a minimum of seven years after departure of an employee, according to the Texas Workforce Commission. This exceeds the Occupational Safety and Health Administration records retention requirement of five years and the Texas unemployment compensation requirement for four-year retention. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act has a three-year requirement. An employer may need records covering Texas discrimination issues for a year following the last day of work. If an employer exposes an employee to hazardous materials at the workplace, the Texas Workforce Commission recommends that the employer keep personnel records for 30 years. If your request for review of your personnel file or write-up falls within seven years of your departure, your former employer will likely have the information available. If you remain in good standing with your employer, a polite request should receive a quick response.
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