Q: What proactive steps can an employee take
regarding their personnel file? Freedom of
A: An employee should review his/her person-
nel file periodically (the Personnel Records
Act requires access at least twice a year). If
the employee disagrees with any information
contained in the file, he/she should request
that it be removed. If the employer does not
agree to remove it, the employee should write
a response to be attached to the disputed por-
tion of the file. Since your response would also
become a part of the record accessible to the
public, it is advised that you have it reviewed
618-733-4472 Employee Records
by an association representative prior to its Champaign 217-384-2906
submission. [Review any applicable collective
bargaining agreement provision regarding re-
sponding to items in personnel files — some Decatur 217-875-9353
have a time limit for when responses can be Edwardsville 618-656-0010
added.] An employee also can engage in po- Effingham 217-342-2187
litical action — assisting the IEA in achieving
legislation that protects an employee’s per- Elgin 847-428-7640
sonnel file material from disclosure. Libertyville 847-932-4140
Q: What proactive steps can an association take Lombard 630-495-3250
regarding protecting members’ personnel Matteson 708-228-5556
files? Moline 309-797-4126
A: Although associations and public employers Morris 815-942-6220
cannot bargain to prevent disclosure of items Mt. Vernon 618-244-0015
that are not exempt under the FOIA, they can
bargain such items as: pre-disclosure notice
and opportunity to ensure that private infor- Palatine 847-359-0300
mation is redacted; content of final discipline Peoria 309-691-2288
documents, final grievance outcomes, and Rockford 815-398-0995
settlement documents (so that they divulge
as little information as possible); the length
of time disciplinary documents will remain in Skokie 847-329-7756
the file; how leave is requested, and how leave Springfield 217-787-7060
use is recorded. An association also can Sterling 815-626-3884
engage in political action — assisting the
IEA in achieving legislation that protects an
employee’s personnel file material from
For more information please contact
your UniServ director. IEA region office
phone numbers are listed on the
back panel of this brochure. 100 East Edwards Street
Springfield, IL 62704-1999 Illinois Education Association-NEA
Brochure printed by the IEA Print Shop
Q: What is the new timeline for responding to a cial information (e.g. bank account numbers), that test booklets with student markings or
FOIA request? passwords or other access codes, medical other identifying information are “student
records, home or personal telephone numbers, records” and therefore, subject to disclosure
A: Five business days after receipt of the request
and personal e-mail addresses (and home ad- to the parent or student. Garlick v. Oak Park
(unless an extension is granted by the public
dresses in some situations). Private informa- and River Forest High School District 200, 329 Ill.
body for specified reasons).
tion does not include a person’s name. Dec. 92 (1st Dist. 2009).
Q: Do you have to use a specific form when mak-
Q: Are all documents in a personnel file subject
ing a FOIA request? Q: Are grievance or discipline documents sub-
to disclosure under the FOIA?
A: No, the public body cannot require that a spe- ject to disclosure under the FOIA?
A: No. Letters of reference, peer evaluations,
cific form be used, or require that you state the A: Only the final grievance resolution and final
private information as defined by the Act and
reason for the request (except that the public disciplinary disposition, if discipline is im-
any unwarranted invasion of personal privacy
body can request information to determine if posed. Other documents related to the
are exempt. For example: copies of social se-
the request is being made for a commercial investigation or processing of grievances and
curity cards, ADA accommodation requests
purpose). discipline are exempt.
and authorizations for direct deposit should
Q: What can a public body charge for copies? be exempt from disclosure. Note: Evaluations
Q: Is correspondence sent, received or opened
by administrators and other documents con-
A: The first 50 pages of copies, black and white, le- on a public employer’s e-mail/internet system
cerning the public duties of public employees
gal or letter size, are free. After that, the cost subject to disclosure?
(like job descriptions, teaching certificates
is supposed to be the actual cost of reproduc-
and course transcripts) are subject to disclo- A: Yes, unless they contain “private information”
tion, not to exceed 15 cents per page.
sure (although “private information” may be or the disclosure would constitute an “unwar-
Q. Does the FOIA prohibit disclosure of exempt redacted). ranted invasion of personal privacy.” Therefore,
documents? members and local association leaders should
Q: Does the new law require a school district to
A. The FOIA does not prohibit disclosure of ex- post a teacher’s evaluations (or salary) on the not use the employer e-mail/internet system
empt documents. The FOIA exemptions merely district website? for union business, unless they desire to have
give a public body a legitimate excuse for not the communication made public. Whether an
A: No. The FOIA does not require that anything employer can or cannot impose discipline
disclosing a document. In other words, just be posted on the website. However, different
because something is exempt from disclosure against an employee for use of the employer’s
laws require that collective bargaining agree- e-mail/internet system for union business is a
under the FOIA doesn’t mean the public body ments and salary information for administra-
could not voluntarily disclose it. See Roehborn separate issue to be discussed with your
tors (not rank and file employees) be posted UniServ Director.
v. Lambert, 213 Ill. Dec. 923 (1st Dist. 1995). on the website (if one exists). Although evalu-
Other laws may prohibit disclosure (like the ations are probably subject to disclosure under Q. Can an individual (or local association)
various laws protecting confidential medical the FOIA, that does not mean that evaluations request a list of who has been making FOIA
information). Local associations may want to are required to be on the website. If your dis- requests?
consider bargaining prohibitions. (e.g. “The trict is considering posting evaluations or other
District shall not disclose any documents con- items from individuals’ personnel files on the A. The new law does not specifically address this.
sidered “exempt” under the FOIA.”) website, it is IEA’s position that such a decision However, there is a 2004 case where the 1st
Q: Are all settlement agreements now subject to is a mandatory subject of bargaining and, ab- District Appellate Court found that a request
disclosure under the FOIA? sent a waiver of bargaining, would require bar- for names and addresses of previous re-
gaining prior to implementation. questers of information was an unwarranted
A: Yes, however, “private information” as defined invasion of personal privacy. See Chicago
by the FOIA could be redacted. Q: Are test questions, scoring keys or other ex- Alliance for Neighborhood Safety v. City of
amination data subject to disclosure under Chicago, 283 Ill. Dec. 506 (1st Dist. 2004).
Q: What is “private information” as defined by the FOIA?
the FOIA? Q: Are documents existing prior to the effective
A: No. There is a specific exemption for certain
date of the new FOIA (1/1/10) subject to the
A: “Private information” is defined as: unique educational matters, including test questions, new disclosure rules?
identifiers, including a person’s social security scoring keys or other examination data.
number, biometric identifiers, personal finan- However, an Illinois Appellate Court has held A: Yes
I l l i n o i s E d u c a t i o n A s s o c i a t i o n - N E A w w w . i e a n e a . o r g