Can I Put a Letter in My Personnel Folder After Being Fired?

Question:
Can a terminated employee have something entered into their personnel file after termination? I was fired after four days of work, before I could speak to my manager regarding hostile or unfair treatment from the person who was supposed to be training me. The manager never knew. I want it added because I was fired and was not given an opportunity to discuss it with her. Since the company may not mail me copies of my personnel file, will I still be able to view it one time?

Response:
Your question is a follow-up to an earlier one, in which you provided details of what sounded like an ineffective training and hiring/firing process. This is the first question.

You can and should send a letter to your former manager, detailing why you think you were treated in an unfair manner before being unfairly fired. In that letter you could request that it be placed in your personnel folder. However, since you no longer work there, they have no legal obligation to include it or to let you see your file. If the business is a big one, send a copy of the letter to HR and ask for it to be placed in your records, to avoid having the owner or your manager simply read your letter and discard it.

You only worked there for less than a week, so unfortunately you did not have time to build a relationship that would encourage your manager to put effort into making the termination less upsetting. Further, even though you think your manager did not know about the circumstances of your firing, she probably was getting reports daily and would have been part of the firing process.

Everything you described indicates that the situation went bad from the beginning. Why it happened will be viewed differently according to who is asked about it. However, clearly there was a huge mismatch somewhere and it wasn’t all about the conflict between you and your trainer. From what you described there were general problems about work processes and procedures. Or, it could be that you thought there were problems in the business and your trainer and others resented being critiqued by a new employee. Whatever the situation, in only four days your employment there was over.

This will probably just be a time when you put this bad experience behind you and move on, building on what you learned from it. With such a short employment time you don’t need to include it in a resume, since you would probably not get a good reference from them.

So, the bottom line is, yes, I think you should send an explanatory letter—and it may be useful for the owner or your former manager to hear your viewpoint. But, it probably will not make a difference in how they hire or train, if they are as ineffective in that area as they seem to be!

Tina Rowe
Ask the Workplace Doctors