Public Officer Not Entitled To Review Personnel File After Termination

In a case of first impression, the court in Barber v. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”), 2012 DJAR 2085 (2012), held that a terminated public officer is not entitled to review his personnel records under the Public Officers Procedural Bills of Rights Act (“POBRA”). The former employee (Barber) claimed he was entitled to review his personnel file under POBRA Section 3306.5, which provides as follows:

“(a) Every employer shall, at reasonable times and at reasonable intervals, upon the request of a public safety officer, during usual business hours, with no loss of compensation to the officer, permit that officer to inspect personnel files that are used or have been used to determine that officer’s qualifications for employment, promotion, additional compensation, or termination, or other disciplinary action.

(b) Each employer shall keep each public safety officer’s personnel file or a true and correct copy thereof, and shall make the file or copy thereof available within a reasonable period of time after a request by the officer.”

After a review of its “plain meaning” and legislative history, the court held that the statue (POBRA Section 3306.5) applies only to current public officers.

The court also observed that the public officer in this case (Barber) was given advance notice of his pending termination and was provided with “copies of all documents and materials giving rise to [his] termination.” By providing these documents, the CDCR complied with its obligation to provide Barber with records under POBR Section 3306.5 even if it applied.

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