Q: Can we release personnel information to someone acting on behalf of an employee?
A: Yes. Personnel files are generally considered confidential under the Public Information Act (PIA). However, there is an exception that provides that the information in a personnel file must be made available to that employee or the employee’s designated representative (Tex. Gov’t Code §552.102). As a result, a request from an employee’s designated representative should be treated the same as if it was made by the employee. Since the statute doesn’t specify a legal guardian or formal power of attorney requirement, a simple designation signed by the employee should suffice.
Family and Medical Leave
In the case of absences involving family and medical leave (FML), the federal regulations state that an employer may accept notification of an employee’s serious health condition from a family member or other spokesperson if the employee is unable to speak for his or herself. In these instances, if there is a need to obtain health information, a simple authorization note from the employee would also be sufficient, provided the employee can sign one. If the employee is incapacitated and unable to communicate with the district, the district can interact with the family member or spokesperson to request and obtain medical certification and other updates on the employee’s condition.
Death of an Employee
Other procedures apply when an employee passes away. If an executor or administrator presents letters of appointment to the district, personal items and unpaid wages may be released to the executor or administrator. If there is no executor or administrator and the employee has a surviving spouse, the employee’s pay and any items that are community property may be released to the spouse providing the spouse has provided a notarized affidavit of authority.
If the district does not receive appropriate paperwork from a surviving spouse, executor, or administrator, procedures for dealing with abandoned wages must be followed. Detailed information on handling records and pay for a deceased employee can be found in the TASB School Law eSource paper, “Frequently Asked Questions When an Employee Passes Away.”
April Mabry oversees HR Services training services, member library products, and the HRX newsletter. She has provided HR training and guidance to Texas public schools since 1991. Mabry was a classroom teacher for 11 years in Texas and Michigan.
Mabry has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Michigan and certification as a professional in human resources (PHR) and is a SHRM-CP.
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