On August 5, 2010, an amendment to Massachusetts G.L.c. 149 sec. 52C went into effect that has caught many employers and labor law attorneys off guard. Under the amendment, employers must notify employees whenever a negative report is placed in their files. However, here are some points and observations about the new law:
• Employees must be notified by employers within 10 days of “placing in the employee’s personnel record any information to the extent that the information is, has been used or may be used, to negatively affect the employee’s qualification for employment, promotion, transfer, additional compensation or the possibility that the employee will be subject to disciplinary action.”
• There is no private right of action for employees to sue employers who violate the notification requirement, rendering the amendment toothless compared to the Massachusetts Wage Act, M.G.L. Chapter 149 § 148 et seq.) which has a private right of action to sue.
• Enforcement of the new personnel records law is the responsibility of the Attorney General’s Office, which can levy sanctions of $500 to $2,500 in addition to requesting compliance.
• The revised law could needlessly harm employer-employee relationships by blowing minor job performance issues out of proportion that, in the past, would have been minor, perhaps meaningless notations in a file.
• Employees can request to review their records only twice a year, not including views related to the filing of negative information. This is meant to reduce excessive requests from labor organizations during disputes with employers.