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Yes it could be corrupt. Use FMP 14 to run a recover on the file and see what is reported. Even if recover does not report any problems, test the new recovered copy to see if it shows this behavior. If the recovered file works and is produced with an "OK to use" message, you can then try using advanced recover options to only rebuild the indexes for this file to see if that works. A file with just rebuilt indexes is preferable to one that needs a full recover.
THen you might consider keeping all employees in one table instead of copying them to another. I see no real reason to copy them to another table given the admittedly limited info of your first post here.
Thank you! Embarrassingly, after I posted my question, I discovered that the problem was caused by user error - I had copied some layouts from one table to the other but forgot to change which table the fields were pulling data from. There is something mysterious going on that has to do with relationships to other tables, but it's moot in the big picture. No corruption in the database.
I wrestled a lot with keeping all the records in one table. I agree, that would be best. However, I couldn't come up with an acceptable solution that would keep the inactive records out of view of my client. the most active user has admin permission, so it would be hard to segregate records for her. Plus, they like seeing the number of records at the top of the layout and knowing that's the total number of active people in their organization. So importing between tables was the best solution I could find (better that separate dbs, which was their old solution).
You can create your own "active" widget on your layout to show the total number of active records and how many are in the current found set.
Even as a full access user, you can set them up with custom menus that automatically omit inactive records from any found set they might otherwise pull up--whether from a scripted find, a user initiated find or via "show all or show omitted" menu selections.