Skip to content

2. Disciplinary records

Posts

  • Alaska

    In Alaska Dispatch v. Fairbanks North Star Borough and Joseph Miller, 4FA-10-2886 Civ. (unpub. op., Super. Ct., 4th Jud. Dist,, Fairbanks, Oct. 23, 2010), the Superior Court granted the press access under the state public records law to discipline-related records of a former borough attorney running for U.S. Senate who the records revealed snuck onto the computers of his public law office co-workers in order to rig a political poll, then lied about what he had done and attempted to cover it up.  The borough’s ordinances prohibit release of material from employees’ personnel files, or disciplinary records, but the judge agreed with the Alaska Dispatch’s arguments that state law supersedes local ordinances if there is a conflict, and that state law requires a balancing of the public’s interest in disclosure against any government or individual privacy interests in secrecy.  The Dispatch cited earlier decisions of the Alaska Supreme Court holding that a “personnel records” exception should be construed narrowly, and that those engaged in public service or seeking high office have diminished expectations of privacy. Miller argued that whether a document is or is not a public record should be determined only by the nature of the document, and its status at the time it is created, without regard to whether someone identified in the document later runs for Senate or otherwise becomes the subject of public interest.  The court agreed with the Dispatch that the fundamental interest in having an informed electorate makes it appropriate to consider the individual’s present status, when a balancing of public and private interests is permissible.  “Individuals who run for office expect that their past will be researched and revealed,” the judge stated, “and thereby lose their previously established expectation of privacy in those documents."

    view more
  • Arizona

    A public body must provide access to “all records that are reasonably necessary or appropriate to maintain an accurate knowledge of disciplinary actions, including the employee responses to all disciplinary actions, involving public officers or employees of the public body.”  A.R.S. § 39-128(A).  But the public body is not required to disclose any person’s home address, home telephone number, or photograph.  A.R.S. § 39-128(B).

    view more
  • Arkansas

    Employee evaluation and job performance records are open to the public “only upon final administrative resolution of any suspension or termination proceeding at which the records form a basis for the decision to suspend or terminate the employee and if there is a compelling public interest in their disclosure.” Ark. Code Ann. § 25-19-105(c)(1). The Attorney General has found disciplinary records to be evaluation and job performance records, so such records are only subject to disclosure if they form the basis for suspension or termination and the disclosure would be warranted by a compelling public interest. See, e.g., Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. Nos. 98-006 (involving records of disciplinary actions less severe than suspension or termination), 93-005 (involving letter recommending termination, letter of reprimand, and other disciplinary records).

    view more
  • California

    For non-public figure, public employees’ documents relating to employee wrongdoing must be disclosed if they “reveal allegations of a substantial nature, as distinct from baseless or trivial, and there is reasonable cause to believe the complaint is well-founded . . . .” Bakersfield City School Dist. v. Superior Court, 118 Cal. App. 4th 1041, 1046, 13 Cal. Rptr. 3d 517 (2004)(citing American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees v. Regents of Univ. of Cal., 80 Cal. App. 3d 913, 146 Cal. Rptr. 42 (1978)).

    Separately, where a complaint has been upheld by an agency or discipline imposed, even if only a private reproval, disciplinary records must be disclosed. See Marken v. Santa Monica-Malibu Unif. Sch. Dist., 202 Cal. App. 4th 1250, 1275, 136 Cal. Rptr. 3d 395 (2012) (discussing case law and holding disclosure of investigation report required where district issued a written reprimand against teacher accused of violating sexual harassment policy).

    For public figure, public officials, who have a diminished expectation of privacy, a lesser standard of reliability is applied in reviewing the records.  BRV, Inc. v. Superior Court, 143 Cal.App.4th 742, 759, 49 Cal.Rptr.3d 519 (2006).  In conducting an in camera review, courts look to determine whether the allegations are “so unreliable that [they] could not be anything but false.” Id. at 758-59.

    view more
  • Colorado

    Open. Only information that is similar in nature to an employee's home address, telephone number and personal financial information is properly classified as "personnel file." Daniels v. City of Commerce City, 988 P.2d 648, 651 (Colo. App. 1999).

    view more
  • Connecticut

    There are no provisions regarding disciplinary records in general. Thus, these should be treated as any other record under FOIA and presumed open unless a record comes within a specific exemption -- for example, if disclosure of the record in question would constitute an "invasion of privacy" under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 1-210(b)(2). See Perkins v. FOIC, 228 Conn. 158, 635 A.2d 783 (1993) (sick leave records); Records Outline at II.A.2.b. Records of teacher performance and evaluation are not public records. See Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-151c as discussed above in Records Outline at II.A.2 and II.B.9.

    view more
  • Delaware

    Disciplinary records contained within a Department of Correction employee's file fall within 11 Del. C. § 4322(a) and are exempt. Newsome v. Biden, 2011 WL 835135 (Del. Ch. Feb. 28, 2011).

    view more
  • District of Columbia

    Not specifically addressed.

    view more
  • Georgia

    Disciplinary records are subject to the Act’s disclosure requirements.

    view more
  • Hawaii

    The UIPA provides that there is no significant privacy interest in information in an agency’s personnel file relating to disciplinary action taken against an agency employee when: the highest non-judicial grievance adjustment procedure timely invoked by the employee or the employee’s representative has concluded; a written decision sustaining the suspension or discharged has been issued after this procedure; and thirty calendar days have elapsed from the issuance of the decision or ninety days for decisions involving county police department officers. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92F-14(b)(4).

    In the case of a county police department officer, the Hawai‘i Supreme Court held that Section 92F-14(b)(4) protects the disciplinary records of suspended (but not discharged) county police department officers, unless the public interest in their disclosure outweighs the officers’ “significant privacy interest,” as determined on a case-by-case basis.  Peer News LLC v. City & County of Honolulu, 138 Hawai‘i 53, 376 P.3d 1 (2016).

    Where information resulting in the discharge or suspension of the employee may have been removed from the employee’s personnel file under a collective bargaining agreement provision, but remains elsewhere in the agency’s files, it is subject to disclosure. Disclosure of Employee Misconduct Records, OIP Op. Ltr. No. 99-01 (Jan. 26, 1999).

    view more
  • Idaho

    All information relating to grievances and performance evaluations of a public employee or applicant are exempt from disclosure under Idaho Code § 74-106(1).

    view more
  • Illinois

    Disciplinary records relating to a public body’s investigation of employee grievances are open.  But any records generated as part of a public body’s adjudication of employee grievances are closed—except for the final outcome in cases where discipline was imposed. 5 ILCS 140/7(1)(n); see generally Gekas v. Williamson, 393 Ill. App. 3d 573, 590, 912 N.E.2d 347, 361 (4th Dist. 2009).

    view more
  • Indiana

    Information relating to the status of any formal charge against the employee, and information about disciplinary actions in which final action has been taken and resulted in the employee being disciplined are subject to public access. Ind. Code § 5-14-3-4(b)(8) (excepting aspects of disciplinary action from the provision giving agencies discretion to deny access to personnel files).

    view more
  • Iowa

    The fact that the individual was discharged as the result of a final disciplinary action upon the exhaustion of all applicable contractual, legal, and statutory remedies is generally a public record.

    view more
  • Kansas

    See K.S.A. 45-221(a)(4); 1994-121 (personnel records are exempt from disclosure).

    view more
  • Kentucky

    Charging documents and final reprimands of public employees are open. City of Louisville v. Courier-Journal and Louisville Times Co., 637 S.W.2d 658 (Ky. Ct. App. 1982); Palmer v. Driggers, 60 S.W.3d 591 (Ky. Ct. App. 2001). The Attorney General has held that “disciplinary action taken against a public employee is a matter related to his job performance and a matter about which the public has a right to know.” OAG 91-198. However, certain statutes outside the Open Records Act may prevent disclosure. See Ky. Rev. Stat. 161.790(10) (permitting a private reprimand of a teacher).

    view more
  • Louisiana

    Employee performance evaluations are exempt. Op. Att'y Gen. 85-724; Trahan v. Larrivee, 365 So. 2d 294 (La. App. 3rd Cir. 1978) (citing constitutional privacy right), writ denied, 366 So. 2d 564 (La. 1979). Disciplinary hearing records involving employee misconduct, however, do not give rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy. Amoco Production Co. v. Landry, 426 So. 2d 220 (La. App. 4th Cir. 1982), writ denied, 433 So. 2d 164 (La. 1983); Op. Att'y Gen. 99-382 (school board member's access to employee's file to review disciplinary action against him). Nor do interviews given in the context of an investigation by the state Division of Administration. Hilbun v. State Division of Administration, 745 So. 2d 1189 (La. App. 1st Cir. 1999).

    view more
  • Maine

    Disciplinary records are confidential unless disciplinary action is taken.  If disciplinary action is taken, then the final written decision imposing or upholding discipline is public.  If an arbitrator overturns or removes disciplinary action, the decision is public, except the employee’s name must be deleted from the final written decision.  5 M.R.S.A. § 7070.  With only slight variations, the same rules apply to county employees (30-A M.R.S.A. § 503), municipal employees (30-A M.R.S.A. 2702), school employees (20-A M.R.S.A. § 6101), and state employees (5 M.R.S.A. § 7070).

    view more
  • Maryland

    The Maryland Court of Appeals has construed the phrase "personnel records" as "those documents that directly pertain to employment and an employee's ability to perform a job." Kirwan v. The Diamondback, 352 Md. 74, 83, 721 A.2d 196, 200 (1998). Such records would include those directly relating to the employee's hiring, discipline, promotion, dismissal, or any matter involving his status as an employee. 352 Md. at 82, 721 A.2d. at 200. Accordingly, a university record of its employee's on-campus parking violation is subject to disclosure under the PIA because such a violation has no bearing on the employment status. 352 Md. at 84, 721 A.2d at 201.

    view more
  • Michigan

    The Supreme Court in Bradley held that the disclosure of the disciplinary record of a public school teacher was permissible under FOIA.

    view more
  • Montana

    The public has a clear and unambiguous right to know the information involved in the internal investigation of a public employee for any alleged violation of any policy, law or rule. The Montana Supreme Court has made it very clear that “internal investigations” of law enforcement personnel (and other public employees) must be fully disclosed to the public while the investigation is ongoing, as well as when it concludes. The outcome of the investigation into the alleged wrongdoing is not relevant. See particularly Great Falls Tribune v. Cascade County Sheriff, 238 Mont. 103, 775 P.2d 1267 (1989); Citizens to Recall Whitlock v. Whitlock, 255 Mont. 517, 844 P.2d 74 (1992); Bozeman Daily Chronicle v. City of Bozeman Police Dept., 260 Mont. 218, 859 P.2d 435 (1993). In each of cases, the court found that the individual officer, public employee or elected official has very little expectation of privacy, and the public has a fundamental right to know what public employees are doing. However, in Billings Gazette v. City of Billings, 313 P.3d 129 (2013) the Court declined to apply the public trust doctrine to mid to low level employees.

    view more
  • Nebraska

    May be withheld. Neb. Rev. Stat. §84-712.05(7).

    view more
  • Nevada

    Presumably open

    view more
  • New Hampshire

    Exempt.  RSA 91-A:5,IV exempts records pertaining to “internal personnel practices.”  See Hounsell v. North Conway Water Precinct, 154 N.H. 1 (2006); Union Leader Corp. v. Fenniman, 136 N.H. 624 (1993)). The Supreme Court has clarified that any records regarding internal personnel practices are exempt, but this exemption does not apply to investigations conducted by external agency, which does not have authority to hire or fire. Reid v. New Hampshire Attorney Gen., 169 N.H. 509 (2016).

    view more
  • New Mexico

    Insofar as disciplinary records contain “letters or memorandums that are matters of opinion,” they do not constitute public records.  See NMSA 1978 § 14-2-1(A)-(B). The question as to whether final disciplinary records are public is likely to be resolved by future litigation.

    view more
  • North Carolina

    Partially public. The date and type of each promotion, demotion, transfer, suspension, separation, or other change in position classification is public. The date and type of each dismissal, suspension, or demotion for disciplinary reasons is public, and if the disciplinary action was a dismissal, a copy of the written notice of the final decision of the head of the department setting forth the specific acts or omissions that are the basis of the dismissal is public.

    view more
  • Ohio

    Disciplinary records are public records. See State ex rel. Dispatch Printing Co. v. Columbus, 90 Ohio St.3d 39, 734 N.E.2d 797 (2000) (holding that police disciplinary reports, including use of force reports and citizen complaints, were public records).

    view more
  • Oklahoma

    A record reflecting the final disciplinary action resulting in loss of pay, suspension, demotion of position, or termination is a public record. 51 O.S. § 24A.7.B.4. The Oklahoma Attorney General has determined that “a public body may keep confidential a record indicating the name of an employee who has been placed on administrative leave with pay if, under the personnel policies of the public body, the action constitutes neither a "final" or "disciplinary" action, nor a "final disciplinary action resulting in loss of pay, suspension, demotion of position, or termination."” 2009 OK AG 33.   The Attorney General has also stated that “a licensing board’s disciplinary files, subject to limited exceptions, are treated as public records.”  2017 OK AG 12, ¶ 7.

    view more
  • Oregon

    ORS 192.345(12) (former ORS 192.501(12)) conditionally exempts “[a] personnel discipline action, or materials or documents supporting that action,” but is limited to completed disciplinary actions where a sanction is imposed. City of Portland v. Rice, 308 Or. 118, 123, 775 P.2d 1371, 1374 (1989). Disciplinary records of former teachers are subject to disclosure under ORS 339.388.

    view more
  • Rhode Island

    Employee disciplinary records are subject to the standard set forth in R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-2(4)(A)(I)(b).

    view more
  • South Carolina

    Disciplinary records are available for inspection and copying. Columbia v.  A.C.L.U. of S.C., 475 S.E.2d 747 (S.C. 1996); Burton v. York County Sheriff, 594 S.E.2d 888 (S.C. App. 2004)

    view more
  • South Dakota

    Presumably closed. SDCL §1-27-1.5 (7).

    view more
  • Tennessee

    The State’s investigation of a harassment claim against one of its employees was protected from disclosure under the attorney client privilege or work product doctrine.  The Tennessean v. Tenn. Dept. of Personnel, 2007 Tenn. App LEXIS 267 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2007).

    view more
  • Texas

    Disciplinary records are generally not exempt from disclosure unless they are confidential under other law or statute. See Tex. Att’y Gen. ORD-470 (1987) (stating public employee’s job performance records do not generally constitute employee’s private affairs and, thus, is subject to disclosure); Tex. Att’y Gen. ORD-455 (1987) (stating that a public employee’s job preferences or abilities are generally not protected by his right to privacy); Tex. Att’y Gen. ORD-423 (1984) (ruling that the release of a public employee’s picture after his arrest for sexual assault is allowed because the public interest outweighs the highly embarrassing nature of the picture).

    Disciplinary records of a police officer working in a civil service city which are maintained in the police officer’s civil service file are not exempt. Tex. Loc. Gov’t Code § 143.089.

    Records maintained in an internal police department file that reasonably relates to a police officer’s employment relationship with the police department is confidential and must not be released but information not reasonably related to the individual’s employment relationship remains subject to disclosure. Tex. Loc. Gov’t Code § 143.089(g); City of San Antonio v. San Antonio Express News, 47 S.W.3d 556, 563 (Tex. App.—San Antonio 2000, pet. denied); City of San Antonio v. Tex. Attorney General, 851 S.W.2d 946, 949 (Tex. App.—Austin 1993, writ denied) (“[A]llegations of misconduct made against a police officer shall not be subject to compelled disclosure under the Act unless they have been substantiated and resulted in disciplinary action.”).

    view more
  • Utah

    Records relating to formal charges or disciplinary actions against a past or present government employee are generally public if the disciplinary action has been completed and the charges have been sustained. Utah Code § 63G-2-301(3)(o); see also Atkinson v. City of West Jordan, No. 99-13 (Utah State Rec. Comm. Nov. 15, 1999) (determining that an investigative report “regarding allegations of impropriety brought against Mr. Atkinson by a co-employee” was public). Judicial disciplinary records are closed to the public until the Utah Supreme Court has entered its final order, except: (a) “upon order of the [Utah] Supreme Court”; (b) “upon the request of the judge who is the subject of the complaint”; (c) upon the request of the Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee for the purpose of evaluating a candidate’s fitness for office; (d) “to aid in a criminal investigation or prosecution”; or (e) upon the request of the Office of Legislative Auditor General, with certain exceptions. Utah Code § 78A-11-112(3).

    view more
  • Vermont

    “Personal documents relating to an individual, including information in any files maintained to hire, evaluate, promote, or discipline any employee of a public agency” are exempt from disclosure.  1 V.S.A. § 317(c)(7).  However, “all information in personnel files of an individual employee of any public agency shall be made available to that individual employee or his or her designated representative.”  Id.

    view more
  • Virginia

    Disciplinary records are generally excluded. Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3705.1.1. In addition, contracts settling personnel disputes are excluded from public access. Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3705.1.1.

    view more
  • Washington

    Release of records related to teacher certification revocations, particularly as they pertain to teachers' sexual misconduct with students, does not violate the teachers' right to privacy. Brouillet v. Cowles Publ'g Co., 114 Wn.2d 788, 791 P.2d 526 (1990). However, disclosure of the identity of a teacher accused of sexual misconduct violates the teacher’s right to privacy under the statute if the allegation is not substantiated. Bellevue John Does 1-11 v. Bellevue School Dist. #405, 164 Wn.2d 199, 189 P.3d 139 (2008). Disclosure of the mere fact that a public employer is investigating a public employee, or that the employee is on administrative leave, does not violate the employee’s right to privacy. Predisik v. Spokane School Dist. No. 81,182 Wash.2d 896, 346 P.3d 737 (2015).

    Disclosure of employee  performance evaluations, which do not discuss any specific instances of misconduct or the performance of public duties, is presumptively highly offensive to a reasonable person and not of legitimate public concern, and thus violative of the employee’s privacy rights and exempt. Dawson v. Daly, 120 Wn.2d 782, 797, 845 P.2d 995 (1993). Beltran v. DSHS, 98 Wn. App.245, 989 P.2d 604. However, evaluations of high level employees, such as city manager, have more significant public interest and may not be exempt under Dawson. See Spokane Research v. City of Spokane, 99 Wn. App. 452, 994 P.2d 267 (2000).  A discharged school employee can obtain performance evaluations of other employees; however, the names of coworkers will be deleted unless there is a specific showing that the right to privacy should not apply. Ollie v. Highland Sch. Dist., 50 Wn. App. 639, 749 P.2d 757 (1988).

    view more
  • West Virginia

    (This section is blank. See the point above.)

    view more
  • Wyoming

    Generally confidential, unless they are also generated for another purpose, such an an investigation in potential criminal conduct.

    view more