California Legal Update: Employee Personnel Records

California law imposes many duties on employers when it comes to the employer-employee relationship. These employment laws are generally found in the California Labor Code.

The California Legislature often passes new labor laws, and these changes can have a big impact on employers. For this reason, it is important for business owners to keep up with changes in the law.

One change to labor laws in 2012 was AB 2674 (Swanson). The law took effect January 1, 2013 and imposes additional record-keeping requirements on employers and gives employees additional rights to inspect personnel records.

Some of the specific changes made by AB 2674 to the California Labor Code include:

  1. An employee (current or former) now has a right to receive a copy of his or her personnel records. Previously, employees only had a right to inspect their personnel records. Employers have 30 calendar days to respond to a request by an employee. The law states that the request must be in writing.
  2. An employer is now allowed to redact the name of any non-supervisorial employee contained in the personnel records prior to allowing the inspection or copying of personnel records by the employee.
  3. An employer is now required to maintain personnel records for at least three years following an employee’s termination of employment. An employer is required to comply with only one request for inspection or copying per former employee per year.
  4. An employer is liable for a $750 penalty if the employer fails to comply with these requirements. An employee is also allowed to seek to recover costs and reasonable attorney’s fees in an action to enforce this new law.

Because of the possibility of a lawsuit by a former employee resulting in a $750 statutory penalty and potentially the imposition of attorney’s fees, employers need to take requests to inspect or copy personnel records very seriously.

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