Employees have the right to review their records

Some employee rights in Minnesota are important. However, these rights may be overlooked and unnecessarily lead to business disputes. Employers are required, for example, to review their personnel records and obtain a copy of these records under certain circumstances.

Once during a six-month period, employees may submit a written request to review their personnel files. After an employee is separated from service, the file may be reviewed once per year as long as this record is kept. Employers must provide the record within seven business days if the record is kept in Minnesota and within 14 days when personnel files are kept outside the state.

The file must be made available during the employer’s normal business hours even though it does not have to be accessible during the employee’s hours of employment. Employers may require that a designee or the employer attend the review. Employers must also provide a free copy of the record to the employee after the review and upon a written request. This request may be denied if it was made in bad faith.

If an employer and employee cannot agree to remove disputed information, the worker may submit a written statement identifying the disputed information and enumerating the employee’s position. This rebuttal must be kept in the personnel file and provided to anyone who receives the disputed information.

Information provided through a review of the employee’s personnel file cannot constitute grounds for a defamation action unless the employer does not follow this dispute resolution process. The law, however, specifies conditions allowing the filing of a defamation lawsuit.

Under this law, there can be no retaliation against an employee for asserting the employee’s rights. Unlawful retaliation may be sanctioned with payment of back pay to the employee, reinstatement or other equitable relief and reasonable attorney’s fees.

Civil actions for actual damages and costs may be filed against employers for violations. Employers may also face a fine of up to $5,000 imposed by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry.

Formulating human resource policies often requires legal assistance but may prevent employment disputes and other legal actions. Compliance with sound personnel policies can also bolster an employer’s defense in these actions.

Source: Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, “A guide to starting a business in Minnesota/Access to personnel records (other than employee assistance records),” Retrieved Dec. 28, 2014

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