Oregon employers are required to keep certain records on hand for each employee, compiled in a personnel file. These records are highly important in case an employee believes he or she has suffered discrimination, wage and hour violations, any form of retaliation, or wrongful termination. While employees should know their rights regarding their access to personnel files, employers should also be aware of the relevant laws, as there are potentially costly civil penalties of up to $1,000 for each violation.
Oregon Revised Statute 652.750 sets out the requirements for employee personnel files, and this law applies to all employers within the state of Oregon. First, the definition of required “personnel records” seems, at first glance, rather narrow. The definition reads, “records of the employee that are used or have been used to determine the employee’s qualification for employment, promotion, additional compensation or employment termination or other disciplinary action.” Such documents may traditionally include the following:
· Cover Letters;
· Job applications;
· Reference letters;
· Job evaluations or annual reviews;
· Disciplinary warnings or write-ups;
· Termination notices.
All of these documents may be reviewed by an employee upon request and may serve to show whether or not there was a valid reason for any adverse employment action, such as refusal to hire, denial of a promotion or raise, demotion, or termination.
Employers often believe that, due to the law’s definition, items such as attendance or payroll records do not have to be supplied to an employee upon request. However, if an employee was disciplined for poor attendance or for falsifying a time card, these records would most certainly qualify as personnel records under the law. There are many other situations in which other paperwork or records may qualify, and employers should examine each file on a case by case basis.
When can employees examine their files?
Employees may request to review their personnel file at any point during their employment, or for up to 60 days following the termination. The employer must subsequently furnish the information within 45 days of a request. The employer may charge the employee for the cost of providing certified copies of the records. Though the law requires personnel records to be kept for 60 days and payroll records to be kept for two years, employers should think twice about discarding those records as soon as they can. Employees may potentially bring a discrimination claim for one year following the alleged incident, and some payroll violation claims may be brought within six years. Therefore, it is wise for employer to keep files on hand to have evidence in the event of a legal claim.
If you are an employee or employer and have any questions regarding personnel records or files, do not hesitate to contact the offices of HKM Employment Attorneys for answers today.