It can be shocking and humiliating to one day be told that your services are no longer needed at your workplace. If you have conducted yourself properly and performed to the company standards, why have your superiors decided to let you go? While an employee firing may be justified, in the event it is not, you have a right to know it and to pursue legal action in California. One way to find out is to look at your personnel file.
Employers keep important information about your employment in your personnel file. FitSmallBusiness explains that personnel files contain documents such as your IRS withholding forms, your payroll information, any workers compensation claims, a contract with the employer if you signed one, and worker benefit documentation. Perhaps the most important document for a wrongful termination case, however, is any termination document the file contains. It should explain why, in the view of the employer, you were fired.
According to state law, if you have a grievance against your current or former employer, you may ask for and receive a copy of your personnel file as well as any employer records that deal with your termination. The employer has up to thirty days to fulfill your request. Also, the employer cannot charge you a prohibitively expensive cost for the copies. You can only be charged for the precise cost of copying the records.
Keep in mind that California law does not permit you to see everything in your personnel file. Exceptions include anything in your record that pertains to a criminal investigation. You may also not view letters of reference if they are in your file. Other forbidden records or reports include information acquired before you became employed, information obtained along with a promotional examination, or documents provided by members of an examination committee.
In the event your employer refuses to comply with the law and give you a copy of your personnel file, you may file a claim with California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). Your employer will likely be hit with a $750 penalty charge. The DLSE will also take steps to enforce your right to receive your file. You can also go to court to seek your employer’s compliance with the law and recover fees paid by your attorney.