Davis Brown Employment and Labor Law Blog

HR Quick Take: Personnel Files - September 25, 2020

Jo Ellen Whitney

Q: If an employee quits and applies for jobs with other employers, do I have to provide a reference or share information in their personnel file? 


A: In general, as part of the reference process, you are not required to provide any information contained within an ex-employee’s personnel file. As a reference, many employers simply stick to name, dates of employment, the position held, and last rates of pay to avoid the potential of an allegation that they have somehow defamed the prior employee as part of the reference process. 


In healthcare, it is not uncommon for prior employees to request that their SING background checks be forwarded to new potential employers, particularly if there had been a background “hit” which was subsequently cleared by the agency.  While you can share SING information as part of a reference request, particularly if permission is given by the employee, you are not required by law to do so. 


Other specific rules relate to motor carriers.  In general, a motor carrier who receives a request for driver information from another motor carrier is not required to supply the requested information except for drug and alcohol records. The law specifically covers sharing alcohol and controlled substance information from previous employers. It states that new employers must make a reasonable, good-faith effort to obtain this information and that the prior employer must release the drug and alcohol information pursuant to a timely request. The driver must grant permission to the prior employer to share these records. If permission is not granted, these motor carrier employers should note missing permission in personnel files.

If the new employer has made the appropriate request with permission and the prior employer does not comply with the request, this failure to comply must be noted with the driver’s other testing information. Note this is for motor carriers only and does not apply to substance testing carried out under Iowa Code 730.5.

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


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