In Scanlon v. Ignite, Org., the appellate court held that the Illinois Personnel Record Review Act (“Act”) does not require an employer to mail copies of an employee’s personnel record to the employee’s representative. In this case, a terminated employee authorized his attorney to request a copy of his personnel record from his former employer (“Ignite”). In the request, the attorney indicated that the employee was moving out of state and requested that a copy of the personnel file be mailed to the attorney’s office. Ignite received the request but refused to provide the requested records.
The former employee then filed suit against Ignite, asserting that Ignite violated the Act by refusing to comply with his request for records. The former employee argued that he requested the records to evaluate a retaliatory discharge claim against Ignite and that Ignite’s unfair and unlawful delay in providing the records uniquely prejudiced him because the statute of limitations for a retaliatory discharge claim continued to run despite his inability to review his personnel record. The former employee asked the court to compel Ignite’s compliance with the Act and require it to produce his personnel file, to pay a penalty, and to pay his attorney fees. In response, Ignite argued that the Act did not require it to mail copies of the former employee’s personnel file to the requesting attorney. The trial court found in favor of Ignite and dismissed the complaint. The former employee appealed.
On appeal, the appellate court found that the former employee’s request for his personnel records did not comply with the plain language of the Act. While the Act provides that an employer shall allow an employee or their representative to inspect their personnel file upon request, this inspection must be done in person unless the employee demonstrates they are unable to review the records in person. In that case, the employee must make a written request that the employer mail a copy of the records to the employee. Here, the request that Ignite mail the former employee’s personnel records to the attorney did not strictly or even substantially comply with the Act because the request did not demonstrate that the employee was unable to inspect the records in person, did not provide any reason why the attorney could not inspect the records in person, and requested that Ignite mail a copy of the records to the attorney rather than to the employee. Accordingly, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.
For any questions concerning the Personnel Record Review Act or employee requests for records, please contact one of our attorneys in the Labor/Personnel Practice Group.