Jana R. Barnett, Esq
(610) 478-1860


Current employees, persons who have been laid off with reemployment rights, employees on a leave of absence, and persons who have been employed recently (“employee”), have the legal right to inspect their personnel files.

If the employee makes a request, the employer is required to permit the employee or person selected by the employee to inspect the personnel file.  The law assumes that the personnel file will be inspected in order to determine one’s qualifications for employment, promotion, additional compensation, termination or disciplinary action.

The employer is required to make the personnel file available to the employee or designee during the regular business hours of the office which stores the records.  The employee or agent may be required to inspect the files during free time, rather than during the normal work day.

The employer can require the employee to file a written request.  The written form should identify the requesting employee, and either the purpose of the inspection or the particular parts of the personnel record to be inspected.

What constitutes the personnel file is determined by the statute, and not the employer’s practice.   The law states that the following are included in the personnel file if they are maintained by the employer: application for employment, wage or salary information, notices of commendations, warnings/discipline, authorization for a deduction or withholding of pay, fringe benefit information, leave records, employment history with the employer (including salary information, job title, dates of changes, retirement record, attendance records and performance evaluations).  The following are not part of the personnel file: investigations of possible criminal offenses, letters of reference, documents to be used in civil, criminal or grievance procedures; medical records; and documents used by the employer to plan for future operations; and information available to the employee under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

If the employee permits others to inspect the personnel file, the employee should give a signed authorization which is for a specific date or period, and which indicates either the purpose of he inspection or parts of he employee’s personnel file which the person can inspect for the employee.

The employee does not have a legal right to photocopy, or remove, documents in the personnel file.  The employee or agent may take notes.

The employer may require that the inspection take place in front of someone, to ensure that documents will not be removed or altered.

The employer must give the employee or designee sufficient time, consistent with the size of the personnel file.

The employer may limit inspection to once per calendar year.

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry enforces the law, and provides forms and instructions for filing a complaint to be used if employers do not comply with the law.

To read statutes and related materials, please use the drop-down menu.

If you need assistance to inspect your personnel file, call Attorney Jana Barnett at 610/478-1860 or e-mail her, and she will reply as quickly as possible.