If you are considering making a complaint or filing a lawsuit against your employer, a review of your employment records can be valuable. Under California law, you are entitled to a copy of your personnel file and payroll records. Your records can be beneficial to look out for negative evaluations, warning letters and/or mistakes on payroll in your file that your employer may use against you. These records provide a good starting point for information the defense may have for your case, and it is “free.” In order to obtain most other documents and information, you are required to file a lawsuit and engage in discovery.
California Labor Code Section 1198.5 states that current employees, former employees and their representatives (attorneys) have the right to request the employee’s personnel file, and the employer must provide it no later than 30 calendar days from the request.
Pursuant to California Labor Code Section 226(c), an employer who receives a written request for payroll records must comply with the request as soon as possible, but no later than 21 calendar days from the date of request.
When making a request to obtain or inspect your personnel and payroll files, make the request in writing (written letter via certified mail, fax or email) in order to prevent your employer from claiming they did not receive your request. If you are requesting extra copies of the files, your employer can charge you for the cost of the copies and mailing costs. If you are a current employee, your employer is not required to provide the records during your work hours, and the law limits you to one request per year.
The following is an example of what you might want to include in your request:
Dear ___________: I was employed by your company (add the employer name) until (date) when I was (terminated/resigned). I am formally requesting my personnel and payroll records be produced pursuant to California Labor Code Sections 1198.5 and 226. Please send my personnel file to (address) within 30 days of receipt of this correspondence, and my payroll records within 21 days of receipt of this correspondence. Should you have any questions or concerns, please contact me immediately.
If your employer fails to comply with your request, they are subject to statutory penalties of $750 per incident of noncompliance under both applicable labor code sections. In addition, your attorney can request these records on your behalf, as sometimes the last thing you want to do is contact your ex-employer.
For more information or if you have been denied access to your employment records, please contact our office for a case evaluation.