Supreme Court Rules that Former Employees Have No Right to Review Their Personnel Files

June 20, 2017

by Ethan R. O’Shea, Esq.

On June 20, 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court settled the issue once and for all as to whether former employees are entitled to review their personnel files after their discharge. They are not.

Pennsylvania’s Personnel Files Act (“Act”) controls access to employee personnel files. In the case of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Inc. v. Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, the Hospital challenged the Department’s determination that its former employee was entitled to review her file within a reasonable time after her termination. The former employee had requested to review her file exactly one week following her termination. Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court affirmed the Department’s decision and ruled that a recently departed employee who requests to review his or her personnel file within a reasonable time after termination is entitled to review the file. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed.

Under the Act, an employee, defined as any person currently employed, laid off with re- employment rights or on leave of absence, is entitled to inspect his or her personnel file upon request at reasonable times. The Supreme Court held that according to the plain terms of the Act, former employees who were not laid off with re-employment rights and who are not on a leave of absence have no right to access their personnel files regardless of how quickly following termination they request to do so. Employers may be guided accordingly.

Questions Every Business Must Ask

Q. Has your business recently reviewed its legal structure to determine whether it is set up in the most advantageous manner for legal and tax purposes, considering recent developments and changes in the law?

Q. Do the owners of your business have a current, updated buy-sell agreement which controls how ownership interests in the business are to be transferred in the event of an owner’s death, disability or termination of employment?

Q. Have the owners of your business developed a succession plan to define how ownership and authority will transition upon the death or retirement of the present owners?

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