Slide 2

Check it, and check it often. If your employer won't show your file to you, big penalties can apply.


Under California law, you have the right, under most circumstances, to view your entire personnel file.

What law gives me the right to review my personnel file?

California Labor Code Section 1198.5 gives private employees the right to view, and obtain a copy of most, if not all of their personnel and payroll files. See, also, California Labor Code Section 432.

Are all employers obliged to disclose personnel files?

Yes. Section 1198.5 applies to private and public employers. This law applies to state agencies, school districts, or other public entities pursuant to California Government Code Section 53060.3.

When can I view my personnel record?

Section 1198.5 gives private employees the right, under most circumstances, to view their personnel files at all reasonable times. What is considered reasonable will depend on factors such as where the file is kept, how it is stored and when you make the request for the file. An employer is not required to produce your file for review during times that you are actually working.

Are there parts of my personnel file my employer can legally prevent me from seeing?

California Labor Code Section 1198.5 states that an employer may lawfully refuse to disclose records relating to the investigation of a possible criminal offense. An employer may also refuse to disclose letters of reference as well as particular “ratings and reports.”

What if my employer refuses to let me see my personnel file, even after reasonable notice?

California law explains that a violation of Section 1198.5 (above) is a misdemeanor and may be punished by a substantial fine.

Who do I talk to if my employer violates the law and will not let me see my personnel file?

If your employer violates the law regarding your personnel file, you may contact the California Department of Industrial Relations or an attorney knowledgeable in employment law.

This information is for illustrative and educational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice, the establishment of an attorney-client relationship, or as indicative of a particular outcome regarding any legal issue you might have.


Information is power