HR Management & Compliance

New law gives employees in Colorado access to personnel files

by Brad Williams

A new state law going into effect January 1 requires most private-sector employers in Colorado to allow employees to inspect and copy their personnel files at least annually upon request. The new law also grants former employees the right to inspect their personnel files once after the termination of their employment.

The law doesn’t require employers to create or keep personnel files for current or former employees. Also, employers aren’t required to retain any particular documents that are or were in an employee’s personnel file for any particular period of time. However, if a personnel file exists when an employee asks to inspect it, the employer must allow access.

The inspection should take place in the employer’s office at a time convenient for both parties. The employer may have a manager of personnel data or another employee of its choosing present during the inspection. If an employee asks to copy some or all of the file, the employer may require payment of reasonable copying costs.

The law defines a “personnel file” as an employee’s personnel records used to determine qualifications for employment, promotion, additional compensation, termination, or other disciplinary action.

The law contains several exceptions. The following documents need not be made available:

  • Documents required under federal or state law to be placed or maintained in a file separate from the regular personnel file;
  • Records pertaining to confidential reports from previous employers;
  • Information about an active criminal or disciplinary investigation or an active investigation by a regulatory agency; and
  • Information that identifies another person who made a confidential accusation against the requesting employee.

The law won’t apply to financial institutions chartered and supervised under state or federal law, including banks, trust companies, savings institutions, or credit unions.

For more information on the personnel file law, see the July issue of Colorado Employment Law Letter.

Brad Williams is an attorney with Holland & Hart LLP in Denver, Colorado. He can be reached at


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