Employees in California, including current employees, employees on leave, and former employees (within a certain statutory time frame), have a statutory right to their personnel files and employment records – all they have to do is ask for them.

Labor Code §1198.5(a) requires that an employer give the employee a copy of their personnel files that are used or have been used to determine that employee’s qualifications for employment, promotion, additional compensation, or termination or other disciplinary action. These documents include an employee’s application to their position, any performance evaluation of that employee during their employment, any grievance filed against that employee, and any documents that signify a change in their employment status, be it a promotion, a raise, or any disciplinary action an employer has had to take against the employee, including termination.

Additionally, Labor Code §432 goes even one step further and allows employees to request all records and documents having to do with them holding a specific position.

The records covered by these statutes are all-encompassing, and include electronic and other records and materials, emails, memos, letters, reports, medical leave documentation, timecards and records, investigation-related documents, committee and other meeting minutes, which concern or mention the employee making the records request.

There are many reasons that an employee might request a copy of their records, but one of the most common is because they intend to bring legal action against their employer, and their records may contain evidence that backs up their claim against their employer. For example, an employee who believes they were fired for a discriminatory reason may find it helpful to show that they only received glowing performance reviews during their employment. In cases like this, it’s most likely the employee’s attorney who would request the records with a signed authorization from the employee.

Whatever the reason, it’s important to know that all California employees have a lawful right to their own employment records, and all they have to do to get those records is to ask for them.