Employee Tip: Requesting Your Personnel File (Employee Records) from Your Wisconsin Employer

Wisconsin law requires that an employer provide an employee, upon his or her request, with a copy of the employee’s file, also called a “personnel file.”  A Wisconsin employer must provide the personnel file to current and former employees upon their request.

This post describes how a Wisconsin employee can go about requesting his or her personnel file.

Please note (1) this post is not referring to any State’s requirements other than Wisconsin’s: many states outside Wisconsin have their own particular personnel file requirements; and (2) this post does not provide legal advice- if you want legal advice, you should contact an attorney and discuss your specific circumstances. If you are interested in legal assistance from attorney-author Michael Brown for your Wisconsin unemployment matter, you can contact Mr. Brown and his law firm DVG Law Partner here:

In Wisconsin, an employer is required by law (Wis. Stat. §103.13):

  • to keep a personnel file for every employee;
  • to include, within that file, any documents used in determining the employee’s qualifications for employment, promotion, transfer, additional compensation, termination or other disciplinary action; and
  • to allow the employee to view the personnel file, or get copies of the personnel file, within seven (7) working days of the employee’s written request.

How to Request the Employer’s Disclosure of Documents

If you are a Wisconsin worker and want your employer or former employer to give you copies of your personnel file documents (or give you a chance to review the file at the employer’s premises), you should consider writing a letter that simply asks for a copy of your personnel file, or for access to the file.

If your first written request does not work (most of the time it will), then you can consider writing a second letter that (1) repeats the request for your personnel file documents; and (2) states the law (“Wis. Stat. §103.13”) that requires the employer provide you with the documents.

Please note that the context of your request makes a difference, and your request should be polite no matter what the context.  For example, if an employer fires an employee, and two days later the employee writes a letter stating “I want copies of all my records BECAUSE THEY WILL PROVE YOU ARE LYING!!!!!” this sort of request will obviously not go over well, and will tip the employer off that the employee may have intentions to pursue a dispute or litigation.

Your communications with the employer should always be polite.  If requesting the documentation at a particular time (e.g. right after you’ve been disciplined) will tip the employer off that you have concerns about your employment (and you don’t want the employer to know you are examining those concerns), you may considering waiting for a better time, if possible.

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