Do employees (and former employees) have the right to see their own personnel file? You bet.
In the employment law context, many wrongful termination/wrongful disciplinary action cases deal with allegations by an employer of an employee’s misconduct. An employer may assert an employee was disciplined because of their unprofessional conduct (e.g, absenteeism, sexual harassment, substance abuse, etc.). In the past, prior to any formal litigation, an employee requesting to see documentation of the misconduct in their personnel file (e.g., written warnings, a filed complaint, a failed drug test) was often out of luck. An employer could refuse.
Colorado law has changed that.
As of January 1, 2017, employees have the ability to inspect and obtain a copy of any part of their own personnel file. The file review request can be made while the employee is still employed or after the employment has ended. The employee may be granted access to the file while an employer witness is present. The employer can require the employee to pay the reasonable cost of duplication of the documents.
This rule doesn’t create a right to sue to see the file, nor does it require that the employer actually make a personnel file for an employee. An employer isn’t required to retain the file for any specified period of time. The law can be found at Colorado Revised Statute 8-2-129.
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