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Davis Brown Employment and Labor Law Blog

HR Quick Take: Employee Personnel Files - June 17, 2020

Q: I have an employee who just quit and decided to take her personnel folder with her. Is this ok?

A. In general, no. It is not appropriate for the employee to simply take the original copy of the personnel file with them when they leave employment. The file itself is the property of the employer and employers are charged with keeping a variety of documents for varying periods of time. So, depending on what is in the personnel file, failure to have the documents could create future legal liability issues for the employer with various agencies.

Additionally, under Iowa law, an existing employee is entitled to review his or her personnel file and even obtain a copy but cannot take the original or take documents out of the original simply because she wants to. Employees who no longer work for you do not have the right to access existing employee files and you do not have to provide files to terminated employees.

HR Quick Takes features client questions and answers from Iowa employment attorneys. If you have a question you’d like answered, email

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