I have worked for a large business in the area for several years. Recently, I had my annual performance evaluation. In the past, my evaluations have been above average or excellent. This year I was evaluated as being barely average. In my opinion, my work performance has stayed the same or increased in some areas, but definitely has not decreased. I asked my supervisor, who is fairly new to the company, for copies of my past performance evaluations because I wanted to compare them with my current evaluation. My supervisor gave me a hard time. At first, she said that I could not have copies of them. Then she said I could have copies of them, but that I would have to use my own time to drive over to the office where the personnel files are kept and use my own time to review my personnel file to obtain my past performance evaluations. What are the rules regarding an employee inspecting their own personnel file?


Pursuant to California Labor Code section 1198.5, you are entitled to inspect your personnel file at reasonable times and intervals. Reasonable times and intervals generally means during business hours of the office where personnel files are usually maintained or anytime during the employee’s regularly scheduled work shift. Sufficient time must be allowed to permit the employee an ample opportunity to conduct a thorough inspection once a year. However, you are not entitled to everything in your personnel file.

You are not entitled to the following information:

  • Records relating to the investigation of a possible criminal offense;
  • Letters of reference; and
  • Ratings, reports, or records that were obtained prior to your employment, prepared by identifiable examination committee members, or obtained in connection with a promotional examination.

Some of the types of records in your personnel file that you are entitled to see are as follows:

  • Application for employment;
  • Payroll authorization form;
  • Notices of commendation, warning, discipline, and/or termination;
  • Notices of layoff, leave of absence, and vacation;
  • Notices of wage attachment or garnishment;
  • Education and training notices and records;
  • Any document you signed relating to obtaining or holding your employment;
  • Performance appraisals/reviews; and
  • Attendance records.

Your employer can generally require you to inspect your personnel file on your own time. However, if, as in your case, the file is not kept at the place where you report to work and you are required to travel to the office where all the personnel files are maintained, your inspection of the file must be done during your normal working hours and you must be compensated for that time at your regular rate of pay.

In addition, pursuant to California Labor Code section 226(b), employers are required to maintain accurate payroll records on each employee and employers are required to permit current and former employees to inspect or copy payroll records pertaining to that particular employee. Employers are required to comply with a request for payroll records no later than 21 calendar days from the date of the request. Pursuant to California Labor Code section 6408(d), employers must provide employees, or their representatives, access to accurate records of employee exposure to potentially toxic materials or harmful physical agents.

For further information regarding personnel files and records, please visit the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement website at
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