I understand there is a new law about employees’ access to personnel files. What does the new law require?


Assembly Bill 2674 modifies employees’ access to certain personnel records effective January 1, 2013. Labor Code section 1198.5 gives employees the right to inspect the personnel records that an employer maintains relating to the employee’s performance or to any grievance concerning the employee.  AB 2674 makes the following key changes to this statute:

  • Current and former employees may access or obtain copies (at the employee’s expense) of documents in their personnel file relating to the employee’s performance or to any grievance concerning the employee.
  • Employee representatives, who are authorized in writing by the employee, may inspect or receive a copy of the specified documents.


  • The employer has 30 calendar days from receipt of a written request from a current or former employee, or the employee’s representative, to allow inspection and/or produce a copy of the documents in the personnel file relating to the employee’s performance or grievance concerning the employee. An agreement in writing may extend this deadline for up to five days.
  • The employer may redact the names of any nonsupervisory employees in the records before allowing the inspection or providing copies.
  • The written request need not be on a particular form, but the employer must provide a form if the employee asks for one.
  • The employer may designate a person to receive the requests.
  • A former employee may only make one request per year.
  • A representative of multiple employees may make no more than 50 requests per calendar month.
  • Employees may normally inspect specific documents in their personnel file at their place of work, or another location as agreed.
  • Former employees may inspect documents at an agreed upon location, or where the documents are stored. However, if a former employee was terminated for harassment or workplace violence, the employer may provide the documents to the former employee by mail, or make them available at a location other than the workplace.

File Retention

  • The employer must keep personnel records for at least three years after termination.


  • If a current or former employee files a lawsuit concerning a personnel matter against the employer, that employee’s right to inspect or copy personnel records ceases while the lawsuit is pending.
  • This law does not apply to an employee covered by a collective bargaining agreement providing for certain minimum protections including the inspection of personnel records.

In light of this new law, employers should consider:

  • Reviewing policies and handbooks concerning inspection of personnel records, itemized wage statements, and record retention.
  • Drafting a form for employees to request personnel records. Remember employees may also make verbal requests.
  • Designating a manager to respond to requests for personnel records.
  • Training supervisors about employees’ rights to inspect certain documents in their personnel file.
  • Making sure personnel files do not contain documents that should be kept in separate files, like I-9 forms and documents relating to an employee’s request for medical leave.
  • Adopting procedures to ensure timely response to requests for personnel records within 30 days, and to requests for itemized wage statements within 21 days.

To read new Labor Code section 1198.5, go to

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