Employee Rights to Personnel Files
What type of information does your employer keep on record about you, and is your employer required to keep this material? And what employee rights does the law provide when it comes to accessing to your personnel file—and all of the information contained within it—at any point during or after your employment? And is the information contained in this file all material that you already know about, or can your employer include information that you have not yet seen yourself? These are all questions that employees ask, especially when they might be thinking about applying for another job or have questions about what sort of information could appear in a background check.
Whether or not you have access to your personnel file depends upon the type of employer you work for. And even if you are permitted to have access to your personnel file, is it easy to get to the information? How do you request your personnel file? As you might imagine, there are often many questions surrounding the rights that employees have to their personnel files and the complications of getting that information in Florida. To better understand some of these issues, we would like to address some frequently asked questions about employee rights to personnel file material.
Are You Employed By a Public or Private Employer?
The Florida Sunshine Law (Fla. Stat. § 119.01 et. seq.) governs access to public records in Florida. When determining whether or not you have the right to access the information contained in your personnel file in Florida, the first question you need to ask yourself is whether you work for a public or a private employer.
In Florida, the law makes clear that public employees can do a public record request for certain information contained in a personnel file. However, private employees do not have the same right to the information contained in the personnel file that their employer keeps. Generally speaking, public employees (those that work for the county or for the state in some capacity, for example, such as public school teachers or police officers) can make a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to gain access to the material in their personnel file. For private employees, getting access to this information can be more complicated, and you should speak with a Florida labor lawyer to learn more about your rights.
What Information is Contained in My Personnel File?
A wide variety of information can be contained within a personnel file. It is likely that most of the information is not new to you. In some cases, however, personnel files may contain documents that the employee has never seen. Some examples of information contained in these files include but are not limited to:
- Injuries and illnesses sustained at work;
- Tax withholding statements;
- Paycheck stubs and wage information;
- Vacation and sick day accrual;
- Employee benefits records;
- Recommendation letters for your current job;
- Employer memos from your evaluations;
- Write-ups of employee disputes; and
- Customer complaints.
Tips for Making Public Records and FOIA Requests in Florida
If you are a public employee and you want to request information in your personnel file, you will need to file a FOIA request in Florida. You should keep in mind that the Florida Sunshine Law does not give you the right to any and all information. For example, sometimes personal emails are not available through FOIA requests, nor are certain notes or other preliminary materials. In general, however, how do you file a FOIA request?
To make a FOIA request, you simply send a letter that follows the form of this Florida Sample FOIA Request in which you identify the information and materials you would like to see, bring as specific as possible. You can also make a public records request by filling out an online Request a Public Record form. Again, it is important to be as specific as possible when you make your request.
Contact a West Palm Beach Employment Law Attorney
While it might seem simple enough to make a public records or a FOIA request, these inquiries can complicated. If you have questions about gaining access to your personnel file, an experienced West Palm Beach employee rights lawyer can help. Contact Scott • Wagner and Associates for more information about how we can assist you.