Pennsylvania Personnel File Inspection Act

We often receive inquiries from employees asking about the right to review their personnel file. The Pennsylvania’s Personnel File Inspection Act, 43 P.S. §1332, grants employees the right to inspect only certain portions of their employment records. The purpose of the Personnel File Inspection Act is to acknowledge the right of both public and private employees to review files held by their employers that contain information about the employees.

The Personnel File Inspection Act provides that an employer shall, at reasonable times, upon an employee's request, permit the employee to inspect the employee's personnel file used to determine qualifications for employment, promotion, additional compensation, termination or disciplinary action. The employer must make the records available during regular business hours where the records are usually and ordinarily maintained. However, an employer may require the employee to inspect records on the free time of the employee.

An employer may require the employee to complete a written document to request access to the personnel file and to assist the employer in providing the correct records to meet the employee's request. The employee may be required to indicate either the purpose of the inspection or the particular parts of the personnel record which the employee wishes to inspect. An employee also has the right to designate a specific individual who shall be authorized to inspect the employee's personnel file.

The Personnel Files Act defines an "employee" as any person currently employed, laid off with reemployment rights or on leave of absence, but does not include applicants for employment. Thus, a former employee who has already been terminated without any reemployment rights does not have any rights under this law. However, courts have held that the law does not prohibit an individual from obtaining a personnel file when the request to review is made "contemporaneously with termination" or "within a reasonable time immediately following termination.”

There are also limitations on what documents the employee has a right to review. An employee has the right to review a personnel file if maintained by the employer, any application for employment, wage or salary information, notices of commendations, warnings or discipline administered, authorization for a deduction or withholding of pay or fringe benefits, leave records, employment history including salary information, job title, dates of retirement and attendance records, and performance evaluations. However, the law does not permit employees to review records of the employee relating to the investigation of a possible criminal offense, letters of reference and documents which are prepared for use in civil, criminal or grievance procedures or medical records.

A frequent source of confusion is that the law does not include the right to receive a copy of the personnel file. In fact, the law specially provides that the employee is not permitted to remove the personnel file from the employer's premises. However, an employee has the right to take notes about the records the employee is reviewing. The employer may also require that the inspection of the personnel file occur in the presence of an official designated by the employer. The employer must allow sufficient inspection time for the employee review which is commensurate with the volume and content of the file. Unless the employee is able to show reasonable cause, the employer may limit inspection to once every calendar year.

We recommend that any employee who intends to make a records request under the Personnel File Inspection Act first consult a qualified employment law attorney. We often find that employees who have a need to make a request are experiencing problems at work and it is important to discuss those problems with a qualified employment law attorney before requesting a records inspection. Call Abramson Employment Law at 267-470-4742 or contact us online to discuss an intention to make a request for records under the Personnel File Inspection Act.

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