Personnel Records Law

Q: What is the definition of “personnel record”?

A: The term “personnel record” is defined by Michigan Law. The Bullard-Plawecki Employee Right to Know Act (MCLA 423.501 et. seq.) provides:

“Personnel record” means a record kept by the employer that identifies the employee, to the extent that the record is used or has been used, or may affect or be used relative to that employee’s qualifications for employment, promotion, transfer, additional compensation, or disciplinary action.

The Act specifically excludes such documents as:

  1. Employee references from third parties;
  2. Materials relating to the employer’s staff planning with respect to more than 1 employee (e.g. reduction in force (RIF) plan, salary increases, management bonus plans, promotions, and job assignments);
  3. Medical reports and records made or obtained by the employer if the records or reports are available to the employee from the doctor or medical facility involved;
  4. Information of a personal nature about a person other than the employee if disclosure of the information would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of the other person’s privacy;
  5. Information that is kept separately from other records and that relates to investigation by the employer into criminal activity of the employee;
  6. Records limited to grievance investigations which are kept separately and are not used for the purposes provided above;
  7. Records maintained by an educational institution which are directly related to a student and are considered to be "educational records" under FERPA (Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act);
  8. Records kept by an executive, administrative or professional employee that are kept in the sole possession of the maker, and are not accessible or shared with other persons. 

Q: Is an employee entitled to review his/her personnel file?

A: Yes. Upon written request to the University, an employee may review his or her personnel file and make photocopies of the documents contained therein. Questions about personnel files should be directed to the Human Resources Employment Service Center, 5700 Cass Avenue, Suite 1900 A/AB, 577-2010.

Q: Is the location of personnel records relevant in determining whether they need to be disclosed when someone requests their “personnel file”?

A: No. The term personnel record is defined by law as explained above. We cannot exempt a document from disclosure merely by not placing it in a person’s department or central University personnel file. If a document falls within the definition of “personnel record”, which is quite broad, then it must be disclosed to the employee upon request, regardless of its physical location, unless it falls within one of the above exceptions.

Q: Can anyone obtain a copy of my personnel file by making a FOIA request?

A: Recent decisions in the Michigan Court of Appeals and Michigan Supreme Court have limited the ability of the University to protect information contained in personnel files from disclosure under FOIA. If disclosure is required by law, the University will make all reasonable efforts to notify the employee when notification is required by FOIA.


-- updated June, 2011