Rights to Personnel Files

••• man with red file image by Valentin Mosichev from Fotolia.com

No federal laws require a company to keep a personnel file or let you see it, so the rules differ state by state. In Texas, the General Services Commission and the Attorney General write and enforce laws governing employees rights on personnel files. Your file contains any relevant material pertaining to your employment. Medical records must be kept separate, but anything else the employer generates may be stored here.

Private Sector

No law requires a private company to let an employee see his file. Check the company’s internal policy on personnel file review for the correct procedure and a list of your rights. If the company does not have a specific policy, decide who is most likely to have access, usually the human resources manager or your supervisor and just ask. Try a verbal request, since you might be allowed to review it with whomever you must ask for permission.

Public Sector

Public sector employees may only review their files during regular business hours, unless an immediate supervisor makes other arrangements. While not required, it’s best to ask for copies in writing. If the company agrees, it should provide the copies quickly and cannot charge you for anything other than standard copy costs. You cannot take or change any documents in your file, but the human resources manager might allow you to add a form with your comments or disagreement.


Often, union contracts provide members with additional rights. According to "Can My Boss Do That?," “Your union contract may give you additional rights to review your file, have copies, or remove unfair or old information.” If the company violates your rights, you likely have many more options. Talk to your union representative for additional information.

Government Sector

Police and firefighters have special rights regarding their personnel files. Any time a document is added, the employer must notify you within 30 days. You get fifteen days to add a rebuttal (written response) to any negative document in your file. Unlike other groups, a government employee can get copies of everything in her file at no charge, other than actual copying costs.

Discharged Employees

While the law requires certain documents to be available on request, Texas lets employers decide whether or not to provide employees with copies of their files when they leave. Personnel files are the property of the employer and they are not required to show them to you. If you ask, employers must share documentation regarding employee benefit plans or medical records, but nothing else.


About the Author

Dana Griffin has written for a number of guides, trade and travel periodicals since 1999. She has also been published in "The Branson Insider" newspaper. Griffin is a CPR/first-aid instructor trainer for the American Red Cross, owns a business and continues to write for publications. She received a Bachelor of Arts in English composition from Vanguard University.

Photo Credits

  • man with red file image by Valentin Mosichev from Fotolia.com