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Can an employee view their own personnel file?

Do you know that if an employee asks to look at his/her personnel file, you have to show it to them? While this may not happen often, Pennsylvania actually has a law – the Pennsylvania Personnel Files Act – requiring that employers allow employees to review their personnel files.

It is key to have a policy in place for how to deal with such requests before any request is actually made. An employer may require a written request before allowing the employee to review their personnel file. An employer may remove some sensitive documents, such as letters of reference, but for the most part the entire personnel file must be made available to the employee. And, while the employee has the right to review the file, the employee is not entitled to remove any documents or even to copy documents in the file. The employee is only entitled to review the file and take notes. Finally, the employer can require that the employee review the file outside of normal working hours, so as not to interfere with the employee’s duties.

Employers should always take note when an employee asks to review his/her personnel file, as many times such a request precedes a lawsuit. It is important for an employer to review the personnel file to ensure that documents are in order. It is key to have a policy in place for how to deal with such requests before any request is actually made.

For questions about this or any other labor and employment topic, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Labor and Employment Department.