So in Illinois, every employee is entitled to a complete copy of their personal file. The company can charge for the copying of the records, but the company cannot deny you a copy. The Illinois Personnel Records Review Act -820 ILCS 40, states that employees have a right to request a review of their personnel records twice a year during their employment and for up to one year after they are terminated from employment. This is often overlooked by terminated employees.
Here are a few things that are also covered by the Illinois Personnel Records Review Act ("Act").
First, if the employer keeps any records that it will use to support your discipline or termination, those documents or records must be in your employee file. If the employer does not keep the records in your file, the company will not be able to produce those documents at trial. This is a big advantage for employees and a great reason to request your employee file.
Second, under the Act the employer does not have to keep a personnel file but in that case, they can't produce documents which they consider supporting your termination--so most employers have a file on you. But by requesting the file, you are forcing the hand of your employer-which works to your advantage.
So what should you do if you want a copy of your personnel file? First, contact my office so I can make sure you are doing things correctly. I would assume you are getting a copy of your records, because there is an issue at work. For this reason, make sure you are doing everything correctly. Second, if you want a copy of your file, do it in writing. Send an email to human resources or who you believe to have the records, In the email ask them to respond in writing that they received your email and keep a copy of the email away from work--so if you get fired, you still have access to the email you sent to human resources. Lastly, make sure your email is very professional and don't mix other messages in the email. Another words, just ask for a copy of your file in the email. Do ask for your file plus address any other issue you may have. A message that isn't clear, risks being not addressed properly.
Here is good tip regarding your personnel file. Many times, human resource workers will make notes on either the front of the file, or inside the file itself. Make sure when you ask for a copy of your personnel file, you ask for any and all documents contained in the file and also a copy of the front, back and inside jacket of the file itself. By doing this, you are ensuring that you capture all of the information in your file, not just the documents.
If your personnel file is missing documents don't address that with human resources. A much better approach is to contact my office and discuss the issue. It may be to your advantage that the documents are not in there. And once your get the documents, a better approach, after consulting with an employment law lawyer, is to detail what you received and email human resources back to confirm that the documents you received represent your entire employment file.
Many times, in sexual harassment cases my office finds that employers do not properly document sexual harassment complaints from employees. By getting a copy of your employment file, you can ensure your complaint is properly documented by the company. And if the company did not properly document your complaint, that can be a real issue going forward for the company.
The single biggest thing you can do is to contact a competent employment or sexual harassment lawyer prior to sending the email to human resources. Remember, the company has lawyers and human resource professionals to protect the company interests. You need someone to protect yours. Contact my office for a free consultation.