How to request personnel file from former employer

Requesting your personnel file or employee file is a right you have under the California Labor Code. However, an employer does not have to involuntarily give these documents to you; a request must be made. Following the simple steps above will ensure your documents will be sent appropriately and at the correct times. If you have any further questions, speak with an attorney or looking at the California Labor Code § 432 could hopefully lead you in the right direction.
Under California law, an employee has a right to a copy of anything he or she has signed including an employment document. Labor Code § 432. However, an employer does not have to produce these documents without a request by the employee. Labor Code § 432. If you are wanting to receive or enforce your right to your personnel file, there are a few steps that need to be taken in order to receive it.


Requesting records

As stated above, in order to obtain your records, a request must be made. This can be done orally, under some statutes, but in writing is always the best option. Labor Code, § 226, subd. (c). When having the request in writing, it also ensures you have a copy of the submission. Moreover, it may be in your best interest to ask your employer how they would like a request to be made. When in doubt, a formal letter is the way to go to ensure professionalism and show respect.


How to write a request


The number one issue an employee may have is how to go about requesting his or her document. Under California law, it is easy. As stated previously, a request can be as informal as an email to an official letter.  It is important to note when requesting your documents, there is no need to explain your reasoning. You have a right under California law to always have access and a copy of your records regardless of the reason.


What to include in your request


When asking for your request, include specifically what you need. For example, if you are in need for your payroll stubs or proof of employment, state that. Also, ensure you put a deadline to when you need to receive the documents. Labor Code, § 1198.5. A good time frame would be 30 days from the day the request is sent. Labor Code, § 1198.5. However, it is important to note an employer only has 21 days to respond to a request for stubs or payroll records. Labor Code, § 226, subd. (c).

Although it is not necessary, referencing the law, specifically the labor code, will ensure your deadlines are met and request is followed. This may be uncomfortable for an employee to include, but it may cause the person reading the request to understand and be aware of the specific guidelines put in place to protect employees. Further, the request may be received by someone who does not know the law and inherently would not follow up at the appropriate times. However, this is not mandatory went requesting your file.

Brad Nakase, Attorney


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