Personnel File versus Field File

If you work for or are considering working for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory keep in mind they play little word games in an attempt to avoid complying with the law.

At 11:24:36 today I got a call from Mr. Mike Talbot (see page 2 of the FOIA and Privacy Act request).  I had called him last Thursday after getting his response to my requests of July 21.  The letter said I already had my personnel file and therefore they weren’t sending it to me again.  When I called last Thursday I told him the file I had received didn’t contain my performance reviews and goals.  He said he would look into it.  The call from him today was the followup on that conversation.  He said, as I found out after I had talked to him, that my performance reviews and other information I was requesting was in my “Field File”, not the “Personnel File”. And because it was in the “Field File” it did not fall under the Privacy Act as per the contract Battelle has with the Department of Energy.

I don’t care about the details of their contract, I don’t care what they call the file, and I don’t really care if it’s the Privacy Act or Washington State Law that covers it.  I just know they are supposed to give me the information in those files.  Here is the applicable Washington State Law:

RCW 49.12.240
Employee inspection of personnel file.

Every employer shall, at least annually, upon the request of an employee, permit that employee to inspect any or all of his or her own personnel file(s).

RCW 49.12.250

Employee inspection of personnel file — Erroneous or disputed information.

(1) Each employer shall make such file(s) available locally within a reasonable period of time after the employee requests the file(s).

(2) An employee annually may petition that the employer review all information in the employee’s personnel file(s) that are regularly maintained by the employer as a part of his business records or are subject to reference for information given to persons outside of the company. The employer shall determine if there is any irrelevant or erroneous information in the file(s), and shall remove all such information from the file(s). If an employee does not agree with the employer’s determination, the employee may at his or her request have placed in the employee’s personnel file a statement containing the employee’s rebuttal or correction. Nothing in this subsection prevents the employer from removing information more frequently.

(3) A former employee shall retain the right of rebuttal or correction for a period not to exceed two years.


2 thoughts on “Personnel File versus Field File

  1. The law doesn’t define “irrelevant”. Perhaps the lawyers in their own weasel way they have decided that since you no longer work there, your performance reviews are irrelevant. It also doesn’t seem to specify how long records must be kept; though if you’re dealing with the government they probably never throw anything away even when they are supposed to.

  2. You do have a good point but Mr. Talbot (who appears to be a ‘nice guy’ BTW) told me the information was in the “Field File”. Not that it didn’t exist.

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