An amendment to California Labor Code Section 1198.5 goes into effect on January 1, 2013, relating to employee access to personnel records.  At a current or former employee’s request, an employer must make the employee’s file available for inspection and -- new for 2013 -- provide a copy of an employee’s personnel records to that current/former employee or his/her representative.  (Prior law required only that copies of documents the employee had signed be provided to the employee.)  Employers may request reimbursement from the employee for the actual copying costs incurred and, if applicable, mailing costs.

Employers must make such records available for inspection and provide a copy (if requested), within 30 days of a current/former employee’s written request.  If a request is made verbally, employers must provide an inspection/copy request form to that employee.  Former employees’ personnel records must be made available for a period of at least 3 years following termination of employment.  A former employee has the right to only 1 inspection/copy request per year, but there is no such limitation for current employees.  Overall, however, an employer need only comply with up to 50 requests per month from current/former employees.

Section 1198.5 does not apply if an employee is covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement that, among other things, expressly provides a procedure for the inspection and copying of personnel records.

Employers should update their personnel record inspection and copying policies to reflect this change in the law for 2013.