- A personnel file is maintained for each employee. These personnel files contain confidential documents and are managed and maintained by Human Resources staff. Personnel files are the main employee records utilized by the employer, the employee, and the employee’s manager, in some companies. In others – and I recommend this approach – access to the employee personnel file is restricted to HR and the employee under supervision.
Typical documents in a personnel file include the employment application, a family emergency contact form, documented disciplinary action history, a resume, the employee handbook receipt employee sign off, at-will employer sign off sheets, the periodic appraisal, job evaluation, or performance development plan, training certificates and attendance evidence, and current personal contact information about each employee.
Not all personnel files contain the same documents but each personnel file has some documents that are the same. Documentation of an employee’s performance doesn’t belong in the personnel file unless it warranted disciplinary action, an award, or some other sign of outstanding achievement. Such everyday performance notes belong in the file that managers keep to track the performance, goals, and contributions of their employees.
- Payroll files also maintain employee records. Payroll files contain a history of the employee’s jobs, departments, compensation changes, garnishments, loans, and other information essential to paying an employee and keeping a copy of the employee’s compensation history.
The payroll file will also contain the history of government forms such as the W-2, W-4, and social security withholding documents filled out by the employee. The file will also contain employee benefits information and permission to withdraw payments from the employee paycheck.
- An employee medical file is also maintained. The employee records in the medical file are not available to anyone except Human Resources designated staff and the employee whose records are retained in the file. Medical files contain doctor’s notes, FMLA application paperwork, drug test information, required physical information, and other such documentation that relates to an employee’s or his family member’s medical health.
Medical files, because of the confidentiality of the employee records, receive the highest degree of safe storage and confidentiality. It is recommended that the medical files should be kept in locked file drawers that are locked in a room that is not accessible by employees other than HR designated staff.
- I-9 Files house employee records that are maintained for all employees in one file that is separate from other employee records. Employers keep this employee record separate from other employee records to maintain employee confidentiality from government officials and other entities who are authorized to review employee I-9s.
Keeping the I-9s in a separate location will ensure that if you are selected for a Federal I-9 file review, government employees will not have access to any other records about the employee or her employment with your organization.
These `investigations are increasing each year so make certain that your employees have properly filled out I-9 forms or you can be subject to fines and potentially jail time.
Employees may view their employee records by contacting a Human Resources staff person during normal business hours. No employee may alter or remove any document in his or her records which must be viewed in the presence of an HR staff person.
You need to have an employee personnel record viewing policy in your employee handbook and follow it indiscriminately with regard to employee requests to view their files.
If an employee sends a written request for a copy of their personnel records after they leave your employment, you are required to send them a copy. You may bill the former employee for the time and copies if you wish,but I don’t believe that many employers do.