Right To Inspect Personnel Files 

As of January 1, 2013, California Laws gives present and former employees (or their representatives) the right to inspect personnel files and get a copy of the information from the employer. Such records include data that relates to their performance, or any issue that concerns the employee.


The law (Labor Code Section 1185.5) stipulates that the inspection must be granted at realistic times and intervals within 30 calendar days from the day the company receives a written request. On receipt of the application, the employer has a legal obligation to make a copy of the records available at a cost that does not exceed the actual reproduction cost.

Contents of “Personal Files” 
The law specifies two types of documents that employers have a legal obligation to provide to current and former workers (or sanctioned representative) in personal files:

  • Records that relate to the employee’s performance
    • Records that relate to any grievances about the employee

The California Labor Commissioner has elaborated the categories to include aspects such as attendance records, performance reviews, employment application and any other file that determines the worker’s qualification for extra compensation, promotion and disciplinary actions (or even termination).

Penalty For Failing To Comply With The Law 
If an employer declines to permit a current or former authorized representative to copy or inspect personal records within the specified times, or the duration agreed through mutual agreement, the complainant/the Labor Commissioner has the right to recover a penalty of $750 from the company.


The worker may, nonetheless, proceed with legal action for injunctive relief to get compliance, and stands the chance to recover costs as well as attorney fees through the court process.

Verification Of Identity Employee 
The law requires the employer to comply with just one request per year to inspect/ receive a copy of their personal requests per employee. The employer is allowed to mail these as long as the employee reimburses his or her postal expenses.


The employer is required to take the necessary steps to authenticate the identity of the asker of the records of personal files. The company is also free to redact the name of a nonsupervisory employee prior to availing the records.

Exempt Records 
The Right to inspect personnel files doesn’t include the records that relate to the inquiry of possible crime, reports, letters of reference and ratings. Similarly, it does not apply to the records the employer obtained before the employee’s employment, those that were obtained in relation to a promotional exam or prepared by recognizable examination committee members.