Don’t Show a Texas Employee His File

Let me be clear: Private employers in Texas do not have to allow employees to see their personnel files. That’s right. I don’t care what other states do, or what they show on TV. The law in Texas is that the file belongs to the employer and the employee cannot demand to see it.

That being said, what does your personnel policy manual say? Many employers whom I help have policies that they copied from a generic software package or borrowed from a friend’s company with offices in another state. Those employee handbooks often say something like, “An employee may request to see his personnel file with 3 days written notice to the human resources department.”

If you have given your employees that privilege, it will appear discriminatory to deny them the opportunity to review their files if they make that request. So check your policy manual first. If you have a policy that promises that employees can see their files, you need to amend your policy to say, “Personnel records of the company belong to and are the property of the company. They are not available to an employee to review.” Then, whenever an employee asks to see her file, you can point to your policy and say, “no” without hesitation.

Why do I recommend that employers in Texas keep their files private? Because the most common mistake I see in my employment law practice is that employers do not document enough. They are scared to write anything down if they know that an employee can see it and question it at any time. The threat of employee litigation looms heavy over most of today’s managers.

I continually try to encourage supervisors to write down everything. I won a trial one time based solely on the informal, imperfect daily diary notes that a manager kept about any problems that he had during the day with his team. The employee who sued the company was mentioned so many times in the informal notes in the 3 months before his termination that it was clear that he was a problem employee and not the victim of discrimination or retaliation.

If you keep your employee files private and document consistently, you can avoid a lot of potential liability as an employer.

5 thoughts on “Don’t Show a Texas Employee His File

  1. Are personnel files available to employees at City Hall? I thought employees could request to see their file at any time.

  2. In my personal opinion if an employer does not have anything to hide then why not let the employee see his/her file. I believe a lot of time employers lie on their employees and do not want anybody to see just how low-down they really are. I say this because I have been a victim of this. of course I had been predicting it for many years but could not prove it. I was let go from my employer in 2010 I worked for the company for almost eight years. When they let me go for some lame excuse which I thought was personal they said i was qualified to be rehired. To say the least I tried at other facilities and was basically hired then a few days later the HR department would never call me back or email me. So I gathered I was black balled. I know this has happened to several people I know. To be honest I have never recovered from their employment and I am still looking for a better job.

  3. To add to my previous comment I feel like employees who work for the private sector are screwed because employers can treat you any kind of way and there is no law to protect you.

  4. How did you get the informal notes into evidence? It seems like they would be hearsay, unless you perhaps prevailed in using the business records exception. Thanks!

  5. What about teacher’s service records in Texas? Does a former teacher have the right to request her service records from a franchise day care center?

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