Personnel Files Call for Careful Attention
Byline: Jeff Burgess Bureau of Labor and Industries
Many Oregon employers have too broad an understanding of what exactly personnel records are under the law. But when they do learn what the statute says, their understanding may be too narrow.
Depending on the situation at hand, certain types of documents might be within the definition of personnel records, but in another case those same types of documents may not be.
For example, time cards and attendance records may not constitute personnel records for most employees. But if they were used as the basis for disciplinary action, they would meet the definition of personnel records.
If an employee files a lawsuit, wage claim or civil rights complaint, she or he may be entitled to more records than those available under a simple personnel records request. In that case, it is up to the court or administrative forum to determine the scope of relevant, discoverable documents that tend to prove or disprove the elements of the case.
But when current or former Oregon employees merely request their personnel records, the statute specifies exactly what must be provided and when and how.
Here are a few frequently asked questions that illustrate the scope of the law:
Question: A recently terminated employee just requested a copy of his personnel file. Do I have to copy every scrap of paper that I have pertaining to him?
Answer: No. The statue provides a fairly limited definition of personnel records. Those are records of the employee that are used or have been used to determine the employee's qualification for employment, promotion, additional compensation or employment termination or other disciplinary action.
Examples include job applications, rsums, cover letters, reference checks, reviews or evaluations, write-ups, and termination notices. Certain items are specifically excluded from the definition of personnel records. Those are: records of an individual relating to the conviction, arrest or investigation of criminal conduct; confidential reports from previous employers; or certain faculty records maintained in compliance with the law. …