California employees' rights to access personnel file and payroll records

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Personnel file
SAN DIEGO. In California, a current or former employee has a right to inspect his or her personnel file relating to the employee’s performance or to any grievance concerning the employee. Cal. Lab. Code §1198.5.

An employer must also provide a copy of any personnel record an employee signed that is related to the obtaining or holding of employment. Cal. Lab. Code §432.  After submitting a reasonable request to the employer, an employee may view personnel records at reasonable times, when the employee is not required to work. If records are kept off-site, employee must be allowed to view them at the archive location without loss of pay. Cal. Lab. Code §1198.5.

An employee is not entitled to view:

(1) Records relating to the investigation of a possible criminal offense.
(2) Letters of reference.
(3) Ratings, reports, or records that were:
     (A) Obtained prior to the employee’s employment.
     (B) Prepared by identifiable examination committee members.
     (C) Obtained in connection with a promotional examination.

These provisions are the minimal legal requirements. Employers may voluntarily elect to provide more disclosure to their employees. Cal. Lab. Code §1198.5.(g).

Payroll records
California employers must allow past and current employees to view and copy their payroll records. Cal. Lab. Code §226(b). Past or current employee’s written or oral request to inspect or copy own payroll records must be complied with as soon as practicable but no later than 21 calendar days of the request. A violation of this rule is an infraction that entitles an employee to recover a $750 penalty from the employer. Cal. Lab. Code §226(c) & (f).

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