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Sunshine Advisory

A Bulletin on Iowa Open Meetings and Public Records Laws

By Attorney General Tom Miller -- February 2003

Access to Personnel Records of Public Employees: What's Open? What's Not?

The public has an interest in information about employees who conduct the public's business, and more information is available about public employees than about private workers. Various questions might come up: What are public employees paid? Where do they live? Are they doing a good job? Just how much is the public entitled to know?

State law requires public employers to disclose certain personnel information, but it also sets limits on public access to personnel records of public employees. Iowa law balances the goal of public accountability with the privacy and security interests of public employees.

Here are some guidelines for applying Iowa's Public Records Law (Iowa Code ch. 22) and providing responsible access to information about government employees:

  • Records of payments to government employees are always public, including wages, reimbursed travel, or a cash payment in settlement of an employment dispute.
  • Information about an employee's promotion or pay increase is public, but performance evaluations or disciplinary records may be kept confidential.
  • An employee's individual vacation and sick leave record is open to the public. The public can have access to records that show the number of days employees use for vacation or sick leave, but the medical reason for an employee's sick leave may be kept confidential.
  • A public employee's name and business address is public. But government bodies may keep confidential an employee's home address, gender, and birth date.

Public personnel officers need to be familiar with the rules on releasing personnel records. This will assure proper public access to public information, while protecting the appropriate confidentiality of employees' personal information.

Citizens who have inquiries or complaints may call the Iowa Citizens' Aide/Ombudsman Office - toll-free at 888-IA-OMBUD (888-426-6283.)

"Sunshine Advisory" bulletins are designed to give information on Iowa's public records and open meetings laws - our "Sunshine Laws." Local officials should obtain legal advice from their counsel, such as the city or county attorney

Iowa Attorney General's Office: Hoover Building, Des Moines, Iowa 50319.

On the Web: www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.org . Sunshine Advisories are a general resource for government officials and citizens.