Minnesota law gives employees a right to review their personnel records periodically.  In some circumstances, the contents of an employee’s “personnel record” may not necessarily be consistent with what an employer keeps in the employee’s personnel file.
Under Minnesota law, “personnel record” is defined to include the following types of information:

  • Any application for employment;
  • Wage or salary history;
  • Notices of commendation, warning, discipline, or termination;
  • Authorizations for a deduction or withholding of pay;
  • Fringe benefit information;
  • Leave records; and
  • Employment history with the employer, including salary and compensation history, job titles, dates of promotions, transfers, and other changes, attendance records, performance evaluations, and retirement record.

But the following types of information do not need to be included in an employee’s personnel record:

  • Written references respecting the employee, including letters of reference supplied to an employer by another person;
  • Information relating to the investigation of a violation of a criminal or civil statute by an employee or an investigation of employee conduct for which the employer may be liable, unless and until:  (i) the investigation is completed and, in cases of an alleged criminal violation, the employer has received notice from the prosecutor that no action will be taken or all criminal proceedings and appeals have been exhausted; and (ii) the employer takes adverse personnel action based on the information contained in the investigation records;
  • Education records that are maintained by an educational institution and directly related to a student;
  • Results of employer testing, except that the employee may see a cumulative total test score for a section of the test or for the entire test;
  • Information relating to the employer’s salary system and staff planning, including comments, judgments, recommendations, or ratings concerning expansion, downsizing, reorganization, job restructuring, future compensation plans, promotion plans, and job assignments;
  • Written comments or data of a personal nature about a person other than the employee, if disclosure of the information would constitute an intrusion upon the other person’s privacy;
  • Written comments or data kept by the employee’s supervisor or an executive, administrative, or professional employee, provided the written comments or data are kept in the sole possession of the author of the record;
  • Privileged information or information that is not discoverable in a workers’ compensation, grievance arbitration, administrative, judicial, or quasi-judicial proceeding;
  • Any portion of a written or transcribed statement by a coworker of the employee that concerns the job performance or job-related misconduct of the employee that discloses the identity of the coworker by name, inference, or otherwise; and
  • Medical reports and records, including reports and records that are available to the employee from a health care services provider pursuant to the Minnesota Health Records Act.

See Minn. Stat. § 181.960, Subd. 4.
Takeaway:  Employers in Minnesota should include all necessary information in an employee’s “personnel record” and exclude any information that the statute says does not need to be included.  Because employees have the right to review their personnel records periodically, what information is included or excluded from the personnel record can have important consequences in some situations.