Former Employer

How to Request Your Personnel File From a Former Employer

You’ve left a job, you’ve moved on to new opportunities, but you find yourself needing to access your old personnel file from your former employer. It’s not as complicated as it may seem.

This process, while seemingly daunting, can be navigated smoothly with the right knowledge and approach. You may wonder, ‘What information does my personnel file actually contain? How do I go about making a request? What are my rights?’

Well, stay with us as we unfold the answers to these pertinent questions and guide you through this process effectively.

Understanding the Personnel File Request from a former employer

When you’re seeking to access your personnel file from a former employer, it’s crucial to begin by submitting a written request, following any detailed process provided, and ensuring it’s sent to the correct person or department.

It’s advisable to seek legal advice before making the request, especially if you have any concerns. Remember, you’re generally entitled to review your file, but laws may vary by state. If the employer doesn’t comply, report the violation to the Department of Labor.

Your personnel file typically includes job applications, wage information, hours worked, payroll records, vacation time, medical leave data, disciplinary actions, performance evaluations, possibly medical records, and coworker complaints. It’s vital you understand these aspects for a successful request.

Crafting Your Written Request

Crafting a precise and professional written request is your first step towards obtaining your personnel file from your former employer. It’s crucial to strike the right balance between being polite and assertive. Remember, you’re not asking a favor; you’re exercising your right.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to craft your letter:

  • Start Off Professionally: Address your letter to the appropriate person or department. Use a formal tone.
  • State your purpose clearly.
  • Mention your dates of employment.
  • Specify What You Need: Clearly list the documents you want.
  • Your personnel file
  • Payroll records
  • Performance reviews
  • Close Politely: Express your anticipation for their cooperation.
  • Provide your contact details.
  • Set a reasonable deadline for their response.

Proofread your letter before sending it. Keep a copy for your records.

Identifying the Right Contact

After crafting your written request, the next step is to identify the correct person or department to send it to within your former organization. Typically, this would be your previous supervisor or the human resources department. However, if you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask.

It’s crucial to direct your request to the right person – it not only speeds up the process but also ensures your request isn’t lost or overlooked. It’s also worth noting that your former employer is legally obligated to respond, so rest assured that your request won’t fall on deaf ears.

Contents of Your Personnel File

You might be wondering what exactly is included in your personnel file. Generally, it contains records related to your employment history, such as:

  • Employment information: This includes your job application, resume, job description, and records of promotions or transfers.
  • *Job application:* Contains your original application for employment.
  • *Resume:* Your resume was submitted at the time of application.
  • *Job description:* Detailed overview of your assigned tasks and responsibilities.
  • *Promotion or transfer records:* Any changes in your job role or location.
  • Performance and disciplinary records: These contain performance evaluations and any disciplinary action taken.
  • *Performance evaluations:* Regular assessments of your job performance.
  • *Disciplinary records:* Documentation of any disciplinary actions taken.
  • Payroll data: Details of your salary, benefits, and any wage-related disputes.

Your Rights to Access File

While understanding the contents of your personnel file is crucial, it’s equally important to know your rights regarding access to this file. Generally, you have the right to review your file, but laws can vary by state. Some states only allow access if you’re involved in a lawsuit with your former employer.

If you believe your rights were violated, report it to the Department of Labor. Always approach this process professionally and remember that your employer is legally obligated to comply with your request. However, give them a reasonable time to respond, typically around ten business days.

You’re entitled to a complete and accurate record of your employment history, so don’t hesitate to exercise your rights.

Handling Non-compliance Issues

In the event that your former employer doesn’t comply with your request for your personnel file, there are certain steps you can take to address the issue.

  • Firstly, ensure that your request is received and understood. If your request was ignored, resend it.
  • Document all communication attempts.
  • If emails or letters don’t work, try a phone call.
  • If the employer still doesn’t respond, consider getting legal counsel involved.
  • A lawyer’s letter can sometimes prompt action.
  • If necessary, they can guide you through legal recourse.

Lastly, report any violation to your state’s Department of Labor.

  • They can investigate the issue.
  • This should be your last resort, used when all other avenues have been exhausted.


In wrapping up, don’t be daunted by requesting your personnel file from a former employer. Understand what the file entails, who to contact, and craft a compelling written request.

Remember, you have the right to access your file and the employer must comply within a reasonable time. If they don’t, know how to handle non-compliance issues.

With this guide, you’re well-equipped to navigate this process efficiently and successfully.

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