Personnel & Medical Files
What Should Be Included in a Personnel File?
Personnel files are defined broadly under Connecticut law.
Connecticut law does not require employers to create or maintain personnel files. If an employer does maintain a file, it must include all documents the employer uses to determine an employee’s eligibility for promotion, compensation, transfer, termination, or adverse action.
These documents may contain reports of an employee’s character, credit, and work habits.
What Does Not Need to Be Included in a Personnel File?
Personnel files do not include stock options, management bonus records, medical records, letters of recommendation, future operation materials, security files, test information where disclosure would invalidate the test, or documents for use in grievance procedures.
“Security files” contain documents regarding an employer’s investigations of losses, misconduct, suspected crimes, and investigative information maintained under government requirements, provided this information is not used to determine an employee’s eligibility for employment, promotion, additional compensation, transfer, termination, disciplinary, or other adverse personnel action.
Can Employees Review and/or Copy Their Personnel File?
Employers must, within seven business days of a written request from a current employee, allow the employee to inspect and if requested, copy their personnel file.
The inspection must take place during regular business hours at a location at or reasonably near the employee’s place of employment.
An employer is not required to allow inspection more than twice in any calendar year.
An employee has a right to a copy of their personnel file, although the employer may charge a reasonable fee for copying it. If an employer charges a fee for copying, they should do so consistently.
Can Former Employees Review and/or Copy Their Personnel File?
Employers must, within ten business days of a written request from a former employee, allow inspection or copying of their personnel file.
The former employee’s request must be within one year of termination of employment with the employer.
The inspection must occur during regular business hours and at a mutually agreeable location. If a location cannot be agreed upon, the employer may mail a copy of the personnel file to the former employee within ten days of the request.
An employer may charge a reasonable fee for copying the records.
What About Medical Records?
Medical records are defined by Connecticut law as all documents and reports prepared by a physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist that are in the possession of an employer and are work-related or upon which such employer relies to make any employment-related decision.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as Connecticut law, requires that employee medical information be kept separate from personnel files.
This can be accomplished by setting up a separate medical file for each employee and keeping all medical records for that employee in the confidential file.
Each employer must, within a reasonable time after receipt of a written request from an employee, permit an inspection of medical records that are in the employer’s possession.
Such inspection must take place during regular business hours at a location at or reasonably near the employee’s place of employment.
Additionally, inspection must be made by a physician chosen by the employee or by a physician chosen by the employer with the employee’s consent.
An employer is not required to allow inspection more than twice in any calendar year and an employer can charge a reasonable fee for copying the records.
Can Employees Dispute Information in their Personnel & Medical File?
An employee who disagrees with any information contained in the personnel or medical file may, with the employer’s permission, remove or correct the information.
If the employee and employer cannot agree on removal or correction, the employee may submit a statement explaining their position.
This statement must be maintained as part of the employee’s personnel file or medical records and must be transmitted when disclosure of the record is made to a third party.
It is important to note that “employee” refers to both current and former employees.
Under What Circumstances Can I Release Information from an Employee’s Personnel or Medical Files?
Connecticut law places numerous restrictions on the release of information from employees’ personnel and medical files.
In general, no individually identifiable information contained in the personnel file or medical records of any employee may be disclosed by an employer to any person or entity not employed by or affiliated with the employer without the written authorization of such employee.
However, information can be disclosed without the employee’s written consent where the information is limited to the verification of dates of employment, the employee’s title or position, the wage or salary of the employee, or when the disclosure is made:
- To a third party that maintains or prepares employment records or performs other employment-related services for the employer
- To a lawfully issued administrative summons or judicial order, including a search warrant or subpoena, or in response to a government audit or the investigation or defense of personnel-related complaints against the employer
- To a request by a law enforcement agency for an employee’s home address and dates of attendance at work
- In response to an apparent medical emergency or to inform the employee’s physician of a medical condition of which the employee may not be aware
- To comply with federal, state, or local laws or regulations
- Where the information is disseminated according to the terms of a collective bargaining agreement
If authorization involves medical records, the employer must inform the employee of their right of inspection with a physician, right to correction, right to withhold authorization, and the effect of any withholding of such authorization upon such employee.
When an employee volunteers in an employee assistance program, information concerning the employee’s participation must not be disclosed without the written consent of the employee.
If the disclosure is necessary to prevent harm to the employee or others, employee consent is not needed.
How Long Do I Need to Keep Personnel and Medical Files?
Under Connecticut law, personnel files must be kept for at least one year after the termination of an employee’s employment. However, many employers maintain personnel records for three years, since that period of time will cover most statutes of limitations for employment-related claims.
For example, if an employee files a lawsuit for wrongful termination three years after he is terminated, an employer who has kept records will be able to use potentially helpful personnel records to defend against the claim.
Medical records must be kept for at least three years after the termination of employment.
An employer has the right to protect personnel and medical files from loss, damage, or alteration to ensure integrity.
Therefore, an employee or physician may not be permitted to remove a file from the employer’s premises when it is made available for inspection.
Given the confidential nature of information in personnel and medical files, such files should be kept in a secure location (i.e., a locked file cabinet).
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