Law Strengthens Employee Access To Personnel Records

Sandré R. Swanson

Governor Brown has signed a new law that clarifies and strengthens workers’ access to inspect their personnel files. The law, AB 2674, was authored by Assemblymember Sandré R. Swanson (D-Alameda), chair of the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee. “California law already guarantees employees the right to inspect their personnel records maintained by their employer,” said Swanson.  “This bill will ensure that that right is a meaningful one by improving the law in several important respects.” Currently, Labor Code Section 1198.5 provides that employees may inspect their personnel files.  However, the law is vague and unclear, and fails to provide specific safeguards and procedures to protect the rights of employees. Among other things, AB 2674 clarifies that both current and former employees may access their personnel records, allows employees to obtain a copy of their records If they so request, the law says employees have the right to have a representative assist them in inspecting the records, provides a specific timeline for employer compliance with worker requests, and establishes a penalty if an employer fails to follow the law. These changes will be especially beneficial to workers with limited English proficiency, who often need assistance in deciphering the information contained in their personnel files, said Swanson. Allowing workers to have a representative assist them or obtain a copy will help all workers fully understand information retained about them by their employer.
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