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Can personnel files be discovered? | Property Insurance Protection Law Blog



Have you ever wondered what’s in your personnel file at work? If you’ve been employed, a personnel file is something you probably had, whether you knew it or not.

Personnel files can contain many different documents. Some things that can be found in personnel files are applications, resumes, job descriptions, records related to offers and promotions, salary and compensation information, handbook and policy confirmations, warnings and disciplinary actions, among other documents.

These documents can help employers make wise and informed hiring decisions. With insurance company employees, the documents in personnel files can also provide insight into the intentions, goals and motives of the employees involved.

So, are these personnel files discoverable? Can attorneys obtain these documents to inform their perspective on the intentions of the employees involved in the claim?

IN Cason v. Builders Firstsource-Southeast Grp., Inc., the court stated in regard to personnel files: “[W]here are the files sought by employees whose actions or inactions are directly relevant to the plaintiff̵

7;s claim or the defendant’s affirmative defense. . . Personnel files are subject to discovery.”1

Further, in James v. Peter Pan Transit Mgmt., Inc., the Court explained that while there may be privacy concerns with personnel files, “when a public policy interest weighs against disclosure, disclosure may still be required where: (1) material is clearly relevant; and (2) the need for disclosure is compelling because the information requested is not readily available otherwise.”2

IN Blount v. Wake Elec. Membership Corp., the court ordered the production of personnel files of employees directly involved by the plaintiff, because the files contained information that was “obviously relevant” and not otherwise readily available.3

It is important to keep these considerations in mind when deciding what you will request through discovery.

Today’s thought

Every action must be prompted by a motive.

-Leonardo Da Vinci


1 Cason v. Builders Firstsource-Southeast Grp., Inc., 159 F. Supp. 2d 242, 247 (WDNC 2001).

2 James v. Peter Pan Transit Mgmt., Inc., No. 5:97-CV-747-BO-1, 1999 US Dist. LEXIS 2565, at *32 (EDNC Jan. 20, 1999) (citing Blount v. Wake Elec. Membership Corp.162 FRD 102, 105-106 (EDNC 1993)).

3 Blount v. Wake Elec. Membership Corp.162 FRD 102, 105-106 (EDNC 1993).


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