Over the duration of an employee’s time working for their employer, the employee will build a personnel file that includes information pertaining to commendation letters, performance reviews, any disciplinary actions taken against the employee and similar information.
The Arizona Administrative Code defines an employee’s personnel file as an “official record and documentation of the employee’s employment“.
Employees may wish to access certain documents and records within their files for several reasons, particularly if they have been fired.
But their ability to access these files often depends on what their state law says concerning personnel files.
Arizona’s Stance on an Employee’s Right to Personnel Files
Arizona’s law on personnel files clearly delineates between the obligations of public and private employers.
Arizona currently has no law on employee access to personnel files that applies to private employers.
Since most private sector employer-employee relationships are at-will in nature, this allows an employer to terminate an employee for any lawful reason without cause.
Further, unless a collective bargaining agreement or the employer’s own handbook/policies specifically allow an employee to access certain personnel files, a terminated private sector employee generally has no legal right to access the files.
State employees are federal in nature, and Arizona law does have a provision that ensures federal employees in Arizona can access their personnel file.
This provision is found in R2-5A-105 of the Arizona Administrative Code.
Federal agency heads are required to maintain an employee personnel file that contains:
- A copy of the employee’s job application
- Employee performance appraisals
- Personnel forms that authorize changes to the employee’s status, position, pay, leave status or classification
- Letters of commendation
- Disciplinary action
The Code also makes clear that a federal employee has the right to review only the employee’s official personnel file.
As such, in simplest terms only federal employees are guaranteed the right to review their personnel files.
This is not to say all hope is lost, however, if you are a private sector employee wishing to review your personnel files.
When Can Private Sector Employees Gain Access to Personnel Files?
While private sector employers are under no obligation to let employees access personnel files, employers can still freely implement a policy that allows employees to do so.
If a policy guaranteeing private employees these rights does indeed exist, legal action can be taken against any private employer that violates their own policy by denying employees personnel file access.
If no such policy exists, an employee may still be able to access the files through other means.
Whether you want a copy of your files for a potential lawsuit or simply for business record purposes, start by politely requesting access to the files in a written request to the employer.
If this request is denied, consider reaching out to an Arizona employment lawyer as there is no Arizona state law on the matter.
If you believe you were unfairly terminated, unfairly terminated or any other reason that could create a legitimate reason for requesting the files, the legal stature of your attorney will aid your cause.
Effectively, the lack of a state law does not mean you have no opportunity to gain access to personnel files.
If you have been denied access to personnel files, talk to an Arizona employment lawyer to make sure your legal rights are protected.
At Tyler Allen Law Firm, we protect the legal rights of employees who have not been treated fairly in the workplace.
Contact us online for a legal consultation to discuss your legal concerns regarding access to personnel files.