Two years ago, Frayda Bluestein from the UNC School of Government wrote this helpful blog post, which explains what information and records pertaining to employment actions are or are not open to the public. Frayda wrote this in order to clarify the 2010 North Carolina legislative changes to the confidentiality of public employees’ personnel files. For example, the law made public, “a copy of the written notice of the final decision of the authority setting forth the specific acts or omissions that are the basis of the dismissal.” A big change like this means lots of follow-up questions. Using the November 8, 2010 Attorney General Advisory Opinion in regards to Personnel Information Required to be Made Available for Inspection by Public Employers, here are the answers to some of these frequently asked questions:
Is a termination/dismissal letter public information?
If the dismissal or termination was the result of a disciplinary action, then the letter of dismissal is open to the public.
What about termination letters for disciplinary reasons written prior to 2010?
If one was written, it must be turned over upon request. According to the Attorney General, the General Assembly intended to make public written notices of dismissal for each employee terminated for disciplinary reasons, including those written prior to October 1, 2010.
Are public employers required to write a letter of dismissal for disciplinary reasons?
Yes, it is the opinion of the Attorney General that as of October 1, 2010, public employers are required to document a notice of dismissal that contains the actions or omissions that led to this decision.
What information must be in the letter of dismissal for disciplinary reasons?
The date of the dismissal and the specific acts or omissions that are the basis of the dismissal. If you are writing this letter, you should cite the particular policy that the terminated employee in question broke. For example, a person is fired for misuse of government equipment and breaking the agency’s internet-use policy.
Do we have to re-create dismissal letters for past employees who had been terminated for disciplinary reasons?
No, public employers do not have to retroactively create these records.
For additional information on public records and confidentiality, please see this Government Records Branch resource: Laws Relating to Confidential Records Held by North Carolina Government