What Needs to Be Included in a Personnel File?
Connecticut General Statutes Section 31-128a defines a personnel file fairly broadly as “papers, documents and reports pertaining to a particular employee which are used or have been used by an employer to determine such employee’s eligibility for employment, promotion, additional compensation, transfer, termination, disciplinary or other adverse personnel action including employee evaluations or reports relating to such employee’s character, credit and work habits.”
What Does Not Need to Be Included in a Personnel File?
Personnel files do not include stock option or management bonus plan records, medical records, letters of reference or recommendations from third parties including former employers, materials which are used by the employer to plan for future operations, information contained in separately maintained security files, test information where disclosure of the information would invalidate the test, or documents that are being developed or prepared for use in civil, criminal or grievance procedures.
“Security files” are in turn defined as memoranda, documents or collections of information relating to investigations of losses, misconduct or suspected crimes, and investigative information maintained pursuant to government requirements, provided such memoranda, documents, or information are maintained separately and are 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?
Under Connecticut General Statutes Section 31-128b, g and h, employers must “within a reasonable time after receipt of a written request from an employee, permit such employee to inspect his personnel file….Such inspection shall 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 such an inspection more than twice in any calendar year. Finally, an employee has a right to a copy of his/her personnel file, although the employer may charge a reasonable fee for copying it. If an employer charges a fee for copying, it should do so consistently.
Connecticut General Statutes Section 31-128e provides that an employee who disagrees with any information contained in a personnel file may, with the employer’s permission, remove or correct the information.
If the employee and employer cannot agree on removal or correction, “then such employee may submit a written statement explaining his position. Such statement shall be maintained as part of such employee’s personnel file…and shall accompany any transmittal or disclosure from such file…to a third party.”
Note that “employee” is defined to include former employees as well as current employees.
What About Medical Records?
“Medical records” are defined by Connecticut law as all papers, 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 separately 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 medical file.
Each employer shall, within a reasonable time after receipt of a written request from an employee, permit an inspection of medical records pertaining to such employee which may be in such employer’s possession.
Such inspection shall take place during regular business hours at a location at or reasonably near the employee’s place of employment and shall be made by a physician chosen by such employee or by a physician chosen by the employer with the employee’s consent.
Under What Circumstances Can I Release Information from an Employee’s Personnel or Medical Files?
Connecticut law places numerous restrictions on 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 shall 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 except where the information is limited to the verification of dates of employment and the employee’s title or position and wage or salary.
In addition, information can be disclosed without the written authorization of the employee when the disclosure is made: (1) To a third party that maintains or prepares employment records or performs other employment-related services for the employer; (2) pursuant 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; (3) pursuant to a request by a law enforcement agency for an employee’s home address and dates of his attendance at work; (4) in response to an apparent medical emergency or to apprise the employee’s physician of a medical condition of which the employee may not be aware; (5) to comply with federal, state or local laws or regulations; or (6) where the information is disseminated pursuant to the terms of a collective bargaining agreement.
Where such authorization involves medical records the employer shall inform the concerned employee of his or his physician’s right of inspection and correction, the right to withhold authorization, and the effect of any withholding of such authorization upon such employee.
How Long Do I Need to Keep Personnel and Medical Files?
Personnel and medical files must be kept for at least one year after the termination of an employee’s employment. (Note: As of Oct. 1, 2001, medical files must be kept for at least three years following termination. P.A. 01-55) However, other laws mandate that certain records be kept for a longer period of time.
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).