COMING SOON – REVISED CONNECTICUT Personnel Files Act Law
Sometimes it is the little things in law that can make a world of difference for the employee and give Human Resources personnel a headache. This past week, one of those special little things occurred when the Connecticut General Assembly issued a final approval to a revision of the Connecticut Personnel Files Act (Senate Bill 910). It is expected that Governor Malloy will approve the revisions in the very near future. That means in the very near future, it will be time once again to revise those employee handbooks.
As a side note, Employee Rights, LLC provides such a service. We not only review/revise employee handbooks to ensure compliance, but we also write them and tailor them for each company and their particular needs. If you are in need of such a service, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at (203) 936-9111. Who better to write your employee handbook, than an agency that makes it a practice to find flaws in them for their clients?
Now that we got that little promo out of the way….So….Why the hoopla over these revisions to the Connecticut Personnel Files Act? Let’s take a look at some of the major changes that are awaiting Governor Malloy’s approval and we think most employees and employers will agree, it’s a big thing.
Employer Time Limits To Respond to Employee Requests
Currently, the employer has a “reasonable amount of time” to respond to an employee’s request to review their personnel records. Unfortunately, in some instances, that reasonable amount of time clause has had some employers not responding at all. Moving forward however, once signed by Governor Malloy, the employee will no longer be faced with having to make repeated requests for a copy of their personnel records because according to the proposed revisions, Connecticut employers must provide a current employee the right to inspect, as well as the right to request a copy, of their personnel files AND the employer must provide same within seven (7) days of the initial request. If you are a former employee, the employer must comply within ten (10) days.
Documents Pertaining To Discipline
As an employee, you were just notified that you are being disciplined. As if that is not bad enough, your employer then refuses to provide you with a written copy of the charges being levied against you. How does the employee combat this type of situation without placing themselves in further jeopardy? The employee no longer has to be left guessing, because with the new revisions, the employer will be mandated to provide the employee with a copy of any documents pertaining to employee discipline within one (1) business day after imposing such discipline.
The significance of this revision for the employee at first glance is applauding, but in fact, the masses should be on their feet cheering. We cannot tell you how many times we represent clients who claim “that document was not in my personnel file prior to my termination,” or that “I was never provided with a copy of that document.” It is hoped that this new revision in a small way, will help make employers more accountable and remove the guessing game on if a disciplinary action did or did not actually occur.
For the Employer, these new revisions are going to make HR’ing a whole lot more sensitive. While the new law states that an employee must be provided with any written documentation of discipline within one (1) day, it is noted that if there is no written documentation, then no such documents can be produced. This places HR in a quandary. Do you compose documentation to support the discipline or not? Herein lays the bigger problem….what to do when you terminate an employee for repeated violations of a company policy, but are unable to qualify it because there is no written documentation. On the other hand, what if during litigation (assuming an employee sues) you produce written documentation of discipline, but you failed to provide that copy to the employee within one day of its issuance (obviously, those documents are going to be suspect and quite possibly ruled as inadmissible).
Right to Rebuttal In Personnel File Documents
As an employee, you were issued documentation within one (1) day of disciplinary action being taken against you. So now you have this disciplinary notice within your personnel records and you whole heartedly disagree with it. How about that performance evaluation that is so far from the truth your stomach is turning? Or, you were terminated for allegedly violating a company policy that you did not do. How do you negate those allegations and have them reflected in your personnel file? With the new revisions on the horizon, employees are now going to have some recourse. An employee will now have the legal right to write a rebuttal (as it pertains to discipline, performance evaluations, termination) and according to the revisions, it MUST be placed into the employee’s personnel records.
Documents Pertaining To Termination
Daily we receive telephone calls from employees who have been terminated and are confused because they did not receive any termination documents or a detailed explanation for the reason for their termination. A majority of the time, many employees do not know the reason for their termination until after they applied for unemployment and the employer contested. This practice has left many innocent and deserving individuals without income for several weeks (in some instances, several months). The new revisions however mandate that the employer must “immediately” provide the employee with copies of any documented notice of termination.
The employer and HR is once again left to determine if the reason for termination is to be committed to writing and if so, it must provide the employee with those documents. As most HR personnel are aware, one of the main defenses against any employment related litigation is the ability to demonstrate that a full and impartial investigation occurred by the employer. In order to demonstrate that such an investigation did occur and that the discipline meted out was justified, documentation is a must. Under the newly revised laws, such documentation as it pertains to discipline, just may be required to be handed over to the requesting employee.
Penalty For Violations
Prior to these pending revisions, the employee held no recourse for an employer’s refusal to provide an employee with a copy of their personnel records, documentation of discipline, or the denial of an employee the right to a rebuttal in their personnel records. Moving forward, employers and HR individuals should be aware that in the very near future, any violation of the above will incur a penalty of up to $500 for a first offense. The State of Connecticut Department of Labor will be overseeing these revisions and accepting complaints by employees against employers who violate the above provisions. It may be prudent to start implementing these changes sooner, rather than later.