Connecticut law makers’ mad dash to the end of the General Assembly session, results in major changes to the State’s employee Personnel Files Act. Senate Bill 910, passed on May 24, 2013, makes a number of key changes that will impact how Connecticut employers discipline and terminate employees. The following provisions warrant particular attention:
- Current employees access to personnel files. Under the current law, employees have a right to “inspect” their personnel file. The new law will require an employer to, if requested, provide a current employee with a copy of his or her file.
- Timing for Inspection/Copying. The Employer will now have 7 business days to allow current employees to inspect, and if requested, copy the file. Employers used to have a “reasonable time” to comply with a request to inspect.
- Former employee access to personnel files. Upon receipt of a written request, an employer will have 10 business days to allow a former employee to inspect, and if requested, copy his/her personnel file. If the parties cannot agree on a reasonable location for the inspection/copying, the employer may comply with this section by mailing the file within the 10 day time period. Former employees have one year from the date of separation to make such a request.
- Disciplinary documents. Employers will now be required to provide employees with “a copy of any documentation of any disciplinary action” within 1 business day of imposing the action.
- Termination documents. Another new mandate requires employers to “immediately” provide any terminated employee with a copy of “any documented notice of that employee’s termination.”
- Employee statements regarding discipline/termination. Yet another significant change is that employers must now include “a statement in clear and conspicuous language” in all written disciplinary documents, performance evaluations, and notices of termination that if the employee disagrees with anything contained in these written documents, the employee may “submit a written statement explaining his or her position.” Any such employee statement must be maintained as part of the employee’s personnel file.
- Fines. The Connecticut Department of Labor may establish appropriate fines, not to exceed $500, for any first violation of the Bill.
The Bill does not change the one-year retention period for personnel file records.
Governor Malloy is expected to sign the Bill, which will take effect October 1, 2013.
What Should CT Employers Do Now?
Connecticut employers of all sizes should review their current practices and policies surrounding employee discipline and personnel records now, and adopt new policies and procedures to address the impending changes. Employers should also begin to inform relevant human resource professionals and staff, and consult local employment law counsel for additional guidance.
Certainly, the Bill adds yet another layer to the administrative requirements imposed upon Connecticut employers. The Bill also leaves open some important issues. For example, does it require employers to now create documentation for verbal warnings and other forms of verbal counseling, and terminations when documents would not otherwise exist? Presumably not, but time will tell.