Authored by C.J. Eaton
On September 15, 2011, C.J. Eaton testified before the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development in support of House Bill 1397, An Act Related to Personnel Records. The bill, sponsored by Representative Jonathan Hecht (D‑Watertown), would amend the Massachusetts personnel records statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 52C, to eliminate confusion caused by a 2010 amendment to the statute. The 2010 amendment, buried within the text of an economic development bill signed into law by Governor Patrick on August 5, 2010, imposed on employers the requirement that they notify employees within ten days of placing information into the employee’s personnel record that “may” negatively affect the employee’s employment or could “possibly” lead to disciplinary action. The statute does specify what information meets these requirements.
Eaton’s testimony focused on the substantial burden that the statute currently places on employers of all sizes and in all sectors, including government employers, small businesses, non-profits, and large corporations, and included a number of specific examples of the challenges faced by those employers. She testified that the current version of the statute is beneficial to neither employers, who must track down every written communication and notify employees of its existence, nor employees, who may have every little mistake recorded in their files. In addition, because the law is currently among the most burdensome of its type in the country, it discourages companies from doing business in Massachusetts. Eaton also explained that the 2010 amendment was essentially a solution in search of a problem, as the statute was not “broken” and provided employees with adequate access to their employment records prior to the amendment.
This bill is one of four competing proposals before the Committee. Thus, there is a legitimate possibility that the statute will be amended to relieve the current burden on employers.