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Policy 1316
Release of Information from Employee Records

Date of Current Revision: March 2013
Responsible Officer: Director of Human Resources Secondary Responsibility: Director of University Communication

1. PURPOSE

This policy establishes guidelines for access to and release of personal information on employees that is maintained by the university.

2. AUTHORITY

The Board of Visitors has been authorized by the Commonwealth of Virginia to govern James Madison University. See Code of Virginia section 23-164.6; 23-9.2:3. The Board has delegated the authority to manage the university to the president.

STATE OR FEDERAL STATUTE AND / OR REGULATION

The university is required to comply with the Virginia Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act (Va. Code Title 2.2, Chapter 38, sections 2.2-3800 et. Seq.) and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Va. Code Title 2.2, Chapter 37, sections 2.2-3700 et seq., hereafter "FOIA").

3. DEFINITIONS

Personal Information That May Be Disclosed Without Employee's Consent
Certain personal information must be disclosed to third parties upon request and may be disclosed without the knowledge and consent of the subject employee. This information includes:

  • Employee's position title
  • Employee's job classification title
  • Dates of employment
  • Records of allowances or reimbursements for expenses paid to employee
  • Official salary or rate of pay for employee, if such pay exceeds $10,000 per year

Personal Information That May Be Disclosed With Employee's Consent
Other personal information may not be disclosed to third parties without the written consent of the subject employee unless the third party has legal authority to access the records or has authority under section 3.3. This information includes, but may not be limited to:

  • Performance evaluations
  • Mental and medical records
  • Credit or payroll deduction information
  • Applications for employment
  • Records of suspension or removal including disciplinary actions
  • Records concerning grievances or complaints
  • Scholastic records
  • Records of arrests, convictions or investigation
  • Material relating to Workers' Compensation claims
  • Material relating to Unemployment Compensation claims
  • Retirement records
  • Confidential letters of reference or recommendation
  • Leave records
  • Results of pre-employment tests
  • Recommendations or letters of reference
  • Personal information such as race, sex, age, home address, home telephone number, marital status, dependents' names, insurance coverage or social security number

Individuals/Agencies That May Have Access To Employee Records Without The Consent of The Employee
The following individuals/agencies may have access to employee records without the consent of the subject employee. This list is not all-inclusive.

  • The employee's supervisor and higher level managers in the employee's supervisory chain.
  • The employee's agency head or designee and agency human resource employees and legal counsel, as necessary.
  • Specific private entities that provide services to state agencies through contractual agreements (such as health benefits, life insurance, Workers' Compensation, etc.) in order to provide such service.

4. APPLICABILITY

This policy applies to all employees of the university. It applies to personnel information in the official university file and supervisor's files on the employee.

5. POLICY

The university is obliged to comply with applicable federal and state law, to disclose to residents of Virginia information that is open to the public and to safeguard the privacy of its employees when determining the release of employee-related information from its records. Personnel information, except for the categories listed in section 3.1, is generally not subject to disclosure under FOIA and is protected under the Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act.

6. PROCEDURES

6.1 Requests for Information - General

6.1.1. All requests for personnel information by third parties outside of the university should be directed to the University Spokesperson, who will coordinate the response with the Director of Human Resources. Any employee of the institution, who receives a request for personnel information, whether or not FOIA is cited in the request, must immediately contact the University Spokesperson in order to meet the strict five day timeline for response under the law. See Policy 1103, Responding to External Requests for Information.

6.1.2. Requests for personnel information by offices or individuals within the university should be directed to the Director of Human Resources, who will determine if the information should be released under section 3.3.

6.1.3. If personnel information other than that listed in 3.1 is disclosed, the employee will be notified of the names of recipients, other than those with authority under 3.3, unless the recipient has obtained the information as part of an ongoing criminal investigation such that disclosure of the investigation would jeopardize law-enforcement action; then, no disclosure of such access shall be made to the employee. Human Resources will maintain a record of those third party entities who have had access to personal information in employees' files over the last 3 year.

6.1.4. Employment references may be provided by past or present supervisors or co-workers or by the Director of Human Resources.

See Policy 1320, Providing and Obtaining Employment Reference Information.

6.2 Requests for Information - Court Orders

The university must comply with validly issued and served subpoenas, court orders and search warrants ordering employee records to be turned over to the court, or other office issuing the order. The university may inform subject employees of such subpoenas, but is not required to do so. Requests for personnel information by subpoena, court order or warrant should be directed to the Legal Services Office. Any employee of the institution who receives a subpoena, court order or warrant must immediately contact the Legal Services Office in order to meet the timeline for response under the law. The Legal Services Office will determine whether the order has been validly issued and served, and whether the information must be released.

6.3 Reviewing Personnel Files 

Employees have access to information retained in all personnel files of which they are the subjects. However, employees do not have access to recommendations or letters of reference, nor to any test or examination used for evaluation. Individuals seeking access to their own official personnel files should arrange an appointment with Human Resources. Employees are not required to obtain their supervisors' approval prior to reviewing their official personnel file. However, they must provide adequate notice to supervisors when they wish to obtain releases from work to review their files. Employees will not be charged for reasonable time away from work to review their files.

Employees may review supervisors' files of which they are the subjects. Employees should make arrangements with their supervisors to review these files. The supervisor or a designee normally should be present during the review unless circumstances would preclude the supervisor's or designee's attendance.

6.4 Copying Records 

The university may charge fees for providing information to individuals requesting copies of documents. These charges may not exceed the actual cost of providing the information. Charges may include the actual copying costs plus the cost for labor involved in locating and copying the information.

7. RESPONSIBILITY

The Human Resources Director is responsible for the management, maintenance and protection of employee files.

Supervisors are responsible for managing and maintaining their own personnel-related files and to include notes, performance documentation and other employee information that is not required to be included in the employee's official Human Resources personnel file.

The University Spokesperson is responsible for coordinating responses to FOIA requests.

The Legal Services Office is responsible for coordinating responses to subpoenas, court orders and warrants.

8. SANCTIONS

Personnel who do not comply with this policy are subject to criminal penalties provided for by the attendant laws as well as disciplinary action up to and including termination.

9. EXCLUSIONS

Persons are only responsible for the management and dissemination of information over which they are custodian. In addition, the university is not required to create records it does not already hold or manipulate or report data in response to a request in a way that it doesn't already manipulate or report such data.

10. INTERPRETATION

The authority to interpret this policy rests with the President, and is generally delegated to the Director of Human Resources.

Previous version: February 2008
Approved by the President: November 2002

Index of Terms

Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
Employee Records
Personnel Records
Privacy law
Subpoenas
Warrants