The process for adverse personnel actions is getting tougher and, perhaps, quite a bit more confusing in Massachusetts. That’s because the legislature recently tightened the rules on what goes into employee personnel files by requiring employers to notify workers when any information that’s placed in their personnel files was or could be used to “negatively affect” promotions, pay, or other employment benefits.
Under the newly amended personnel file statute, employers must give the notice within 10 days of adding anything negative to an employee’s file. Since it’s hard to draw parameters around what’s covered, employers will need to err on the side of caution in giving notices. Documents such as performance reviews, regardless of content, and written warnings are the most likely targets of the new law, since they are often relied upon by employers to make promotional and wage decisions. Still, the best practice may be to implement standard procedures for sending notices to workers when anything other than run-of-the-mill hiring information is placed in personnel files. That way, employers can be sure they don’t transgress the new rules.
The personnel statute still permits employees to inspect and receive a copy of their personnel files on written request. The amendments also added a provision restricting the application of these rights to twice annually. Employees may not, however, be charged with one of their two annual inspections when a review is prompted by a notice of negative information being placed in a personnel file.