How to Request a Personnel File From a Former Employer

by Ruth Mayhew; Updated September 26, 2017

Whether you are pursuing a legal claim or simply want a copy of your personnel file from a former employer for your personal business records, there may be specific steps you must follow to obtain your file. No federal law exists that requires employers to grant requests from former employees who want to view their personnel files; however, some states have laws concerning employee access to personnel records. In addition, many employers respond, in good faith, to former employees who submit a timely request to view their personnel records.

Step 1

Retrieve your former employee handbook from your personal files. If you didn't retain a copy of your employee handbook, contact your former employer to ask for the procedure requesting your employment file. In the meantime, review the employments you currently have to determine which employment-related documents you're missing. Organize your personal employment materials in anticipation of your personnel file review. Construct a list of certain employment documents you wish to review and copy. Use this as a checklist of file materials to review and copy when your former employer grants your request.

Step 2

Send all information pertaining to employee request for personnel documents to your representative or lawyer if you have third-party representation. When former employees have legal representation, it's customary for the attorney or legal counsel to initiate the request. If an attorney submits a written request for your file materials, employers must produce copies to an employee's representative.

Step 3

Access your state's labor department website and read laws concerning employee requests for personnel files. If you were employed by a private sector employer, search for laws concerning businesses' obligation to produce copies of former employees' personnel file. State laws concerning access by former public sector employees may be addressed by the state's labor laws or within the statutes concerning the release of public records. Government employees are considered public employees, therefore, rules that apply to their employment are sometimes codified in legislation concerning open records laws or Sunshine laws. Sunshine laws provide the public with access to records in the public domain.

Step 4

Draft a written request for your personnel file. If your former employer has a policy for requesting employment files, chances are the policy requires a written request. On the other hand, if your state's labor department mandates certain steps for requesting employment files, you might need to submit a written request. In some instances, former employees must submit their written request via certified mail so they have a record of the request. Even if your employer doesn't have mailing requirements, consider using certified, return receipt mail to dispatch your request. This ensures you have a record of when your request was mailed and received by the company.

Tips

  • To save time in the future, maintain a copy of your employment records from your current employer. It's easier to compile your own personal employment file from the beginning of your employment. Retain a copy of your employee handbook so you have a handy reference should you have questions about employment policies after you leave your job.

Warnings

  • You might have to pay for the cost of photocopies when you review your file. Many employers will provide copies of your employment documents free of charge; however, employers are well within their rights to charge reasonable fees to photocopy employee file materials.

About the Author

Ruth Mayhew began writing in 1985. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry" and "Human Resources Managers Appraisal Schemes." Mayhew earned senior professional human resources certification from the Human Resources Certification Institute and holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.