August 10th, 2017

Former Employees Not Entitled To Inspect Personnel Files

The Pennsylvania Personnel Files Act (the “Act”) requires that all employers permit an employee to inspect his or her own personnel file used to determine his or her own qualifications for employment, promotion, additional compensation, termination or disciplinary action. The Act defines “employee” as “any person currently employed, laid off with reemployment rights or on leave of absence.” The question of whether a former employee is entitled to review his or her personnel file recently came before the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in the case of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Inc. v. Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

In that case, Elizabeth Haubrich was employed by Thomas Jefferson University Hospital (the “Hospital”) as a nurse-anesthetist. The Hospital terminated Haubrich on August 9, 2013. One week later, on August 16, 2013, Haubrich filed a request with the Hospital to view her personnel file pursuant to the Personnel Files Act. Believing that Haubrich was not entitled to view her files because she was no longer an employee, the Hospital denied her request. The Supreme Court ultimately agreed that Haubrich was not the Hospital’s employee as defined by the Act, and therefore, she did not have a statutory right to review her file.

The Supreme Court’s decision clarified a prior decision by the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court in Beitman v. Department of Labor and Industry. In that case, the Commonwealth Court explained that the phrase “currently employed” as used in the Act, allowed an individual to inspect his or her personnel file when the request to inspect was made “contemporaneously with termination or within a reasonable time immediately following termination.”

Attorney Graig Schultz is a member of the firm’s Litigation Group, counseling employers on employment litigation matters and preventative matters.

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