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What Access Do New York Employees Have To Their Personnel Files?


When you believe you’re facing discrimination or retaliation at work, you need to gather evidence to prove it. While there are various pieces of evidence you’ll need to obtain, one that is likely the first thing you think about is your personnel file. Since your personnel file includes information about you, you might assume that you can access it whenever you need it. However, this isn’t always the case, and who can request to view their file varies.

If you’re an employee in New York City, you may be wondering if you can access your personnel file when necessary. Our employment discrimination lawyers can help you understand what rights you have surrounding your personnel files at work.

What Information is In Your Personnel File?

What information a personnel file contains can vary from person to person, but many contain the same details. Often these contain documents the employee has already seen, such as any contracts they’ve signed during their employment. This can also include references from previous employers, tax information, emergency contacts, and information regarding changes like evaluations, raises, and promotions. Of course, personnel files should also include any information about warnings and disciplinary actions taken against the employee if this has occurred.

There is also some information that should not be included in personnel files. For example, an employer may have documentation of an employee’s medical conditions, but according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, this must be kept separate from personnel files.

When Might You Need to Access Your Personnel File?

Many situations can require an employee to view their file. If you’re experiencing adverse employment actions due to discrimination or retaliation, the information in your personnel file may help your case. You may be able to show that you’ve only received positive reviews in the past and have never had any warnings issued regarding your performance or behavior. Similarly, you may also have concerns that your employer has included inaccurate information in your file that you need to dispute or information that should not be included in a personnel file.

Federal Laws Regarding Accessing Personnel Files

There are no federal laws that give employees the right to access their personnel files. Because of this, state laws dictate what rights employees have regarding these files, although not every state has laws in place. Some states allow employees access if they submit a written request, while laws may also give employees permission to make copies of their files or access them after they’ve left their employer.

New York State Laws Regarding Accessing Personnel Files

New York does not currently have laws in place that require employers to let employees view their personnel files. However, this doesn’t mean that employees are never allowed to access their personnel files. While employers aren’t required to give employees access, there is nothing preventing them from doing so. If an employer wants to grant an employee access, they can. Some employers may also have their own policies regarding employee personnel files, in which case, employees may have the right to access them despite there being no state laws. Unions may also have policies that allow members to access their files.

If your employer does give you access to your file, be sure that you know what permissions you have when viewing it. For example, are you allowed to make copies or take pictures? While you may be granted access to view it, your personnel file is your employer’s property, so you need to be careful while handling it.

Trusted New York City Employment Discrimination Lawyers

New York City employees who believe they’re being discriminated against or retaliated against at work need to contact an employment discrimination lawyer for help. Your lawyer will understand what evidence you will need for your case and know what the best steps to take to access it are. At Brown Kwon & Lam, our employment discrimination lawyers work hard to ensure employees get the justice they deserve.

Contact us today to learn more about working with an employment discrimination lawyer.