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Connecticut Employers Must Comply With Additional Requirements Under Connecticut’s Personnel File Access Law

August 8, 2013

Effective October 1, 2013, Connecticut employers will have additional obligations under Connecticut’s personnel file access law, in light of a June 21, 2013 amendment to the law (Public Act No. 13-176). 

Overview of Connecticut Employers’ Obligations Under This Amendment to the Personnel File Access Law.

The changes imposed by this amendment include the following:  

1.   Specific Time Period Imposed for Inspection and Copying of an Employee’s Personnel File.

The current law provides that, if a current or former employee requests in writing to inspect his or her personnel file, or obtain a copy of such file, the employer must comply with this request within a reasonable period of time.   

The amendment provides a specific time period in which the employer must permit the inspection and copying of the personnel file.  The employer must permit: (a) a current employee to inspect and copy his or her personnel file not more than seven business days after receiving the employee’s written request; and (b) a former employee to inspect and copy his or her personnel file not more than ten business days after receiving the former employee’s written request, provided the employer receives such written request no later than one year after the termination of such former employee’s employment with the employer. 

2.   Location of Inspection of Personnel File.

The current law provides that the inspection of an individual’s personnel file shall take place during regular business hours at a location at or reasonably near the individual’s place of employment.  

The amendment provides that, with respect to former employees: (a) such inspection will take place during regular business hours at a location mutually agreed upon by the employer and former employee; and (b) if the employer and former employee cannot agree upon a location to conduct such inspection, the employer may mail a copy of the former employee's personnel file to the former employee not more than ten business days after receiving the former employee’s written request for inspection of the personnel file.  

3.   Rebuttal of Information in Personnel File.

The current law provides that, if upon inspection of an employee’s personnel file an employee disagrees with any of the information contained in the file: (a) the employer and employee may agree upon removal or correction of such information; or (b) if the employer and employee cannot agree upon such removal or correction, then the employee may submit a written statement explaining his or her position, which will be maintained as part of the employee’s personnel file, and shall accompany any transmittal or disclosure from such file to a third party.  (It is unclear whether this provision applies only to current employees, or would also apply to former employees.)

Under the amendment, employers must advise employees of their right to submit a statement explaining their position by including a statement in clear and conspicuous language in any documented disciplinary action, notice of termination of an employee’s employment or performance evaluation used by the employer that the employee may, should the employee disagree with any of the information contained in such materials, submit a written statement explaining his or her position (to be included as part of the personnel file, and accompany any transmittal or disclosure of the file to third parties).

4.   Documentation of Disciplinary Actions Must Be Provided Automatically.  

The amendment also creates a new obligation for employers to automatically provide employees with a copy of any documentation of any disciplinary action imposed on that employee not more than one business day after the date of imposing such disciplinary action.  Employers must also immediately provide an employee with a copy of any documented notice of his or her termination of employment.

5.   Clarification of Penalties. 

The amendment clarifies the penalties that the Connecticut Department of Labor may assess for violations of this law.  Under the amendment, the Department of Labor may assess a penalty of up to $500 for the first violation of this law related to an individual employee or former employee, and up to $1,000 for each subsequent violation related to such individual employee or former employee.  In assessing these penalties, the Department of Labor must consider all factors the Commissioner of Labor deems relevant, including but not limited to, (a) the level of penalty necessary to insure immediate and continued compliance with this personnel file access law; (b) the character and degree of impact of the violation; and (c) any prior violations of this law by the employer.

Next Steps.

In light of the new requirements in this amendment to Connecticut’s personnel file access law, Connecticut employers should, prior to October 1, 2013:

1.   train their Human Resources staff and other relevant employees regarding the new requirements under this amendment to Connecticut’s personnel file access law;

2.   update their disciplinary action forms, notices of termination of an employee’s employment, performance evaluations, or similar documents to include the clear and conspicuous language advising employees of their right to submit a written statement explaining their position, should they disagree with the information contained in such documents; and

3.   review their recordkeeping practices to ensure that their personnel files are in order and preserved, so that employers can timely and properly comply with requests for inspection from employees and former employees.

Employers should also be mindful that this new law does not state that employers must create specific files or written documentation that they ordinarily would not use.  Instead, the law provides for specific inspection and copying of, and disclosures to be included in, the documentation that employers choose to use and create as part of their business operations. 

Please do not hesitate to contact any of our attorneys if you have any questions regarding your company’s obligations under the amendment to Connecticut’s personnel file access law.