The Common Law

Can I see my employment personnel file?

My employer keeps "personnel files" on all employees. I recently asked to see my file, and my boss refused. Don't I have a right to see my own employment personnel file?

Generally no. In Texas, a personnel file is considered the property of the employer, not the employee. As a general rule, employees in the private sector do not have any rights to access, copy, or look at their personnel files, and employers are under no obligation to share the information they retain on their employees.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, the personnel files of public employees are generally available upon request to anyone. Public employees can request that certain personal identifying information, such as home address, home phone number, dates of birth, etc., are withheld from the file and undisclosed.

I'm an hourly employee, and I've been working 50-plus hours per week for the last several months. I want to cut back to 40 hours per week but am worried my boss might fire me if I don't work the extra hours. Can I be fired if I refuse to work overtime?

Unless you have an agreement stating otherwise, your boss can ask you to work more than 40 hours per week. The Fair Labor Standards Act (the federal overtime law) sets no limits on how many hours a day or week your employer can require you to work. An employer can generally fire an employee if he or she refuses to work overtime.

The Fair Labor Standards Act does, however, require that most employees be paid overtime at "time and a half" for the hours worked in excess of 40 hours during any "workweek." You might want to contact the Texas Workforce Commission (800/832-9243) if you have not received the proper overtime pay for additional hours.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP,

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle