“The Do’s and Don’t of Employee Personnel Files”

As HR professionals, with all that is required of us in a given day, worrying about personnel files is not high on our list of priorities. Like many of us, you may find that your personnel files are stuffed with paper but are not set up in any particular order. Even in today’s digital world, managing employees seems to come with a lot of paper work.

It is important to remember that your employee’s personnel files can be accessed by that employee, their supervisor, Human Resources, state and federal auditors and can be subpoenaed by the courts. Therefore, it is critically important that the file be well organized and only contain unbiased and factual information.

Do’s of Personnel Files

The contents of your employee’s public personnel file may include:

  • w4 forms (black out the birthdate)
  • salary information
  • offer letter/confidentiality agreements
  • resume/transcript
  • employment application
  • performance reviews (signed by employee)
  • attendance records
  • discipline/warnings/termination (signed by employee)
  • special memos for work arrangements, leave of absence, etc. (signed by employee)
  • any policies that have been signed off on

Don’ts of Personnel Files

Your employee’s public personnel file should not contain:

  • any medical information
  • banking information
  • social security numbers
  • birthdates
  • interview notes
  • wage garnishment
  • test score
  • reference check information
  • completed I-9 forms

Along with public personnel files, it is recommended that additional files be created for each employee that is separate from that public file:

Confidential Employee Personnel File

    • direct deposit information/banking
    • date of birth or social security information
    • supervisor or employee notes
    • reference check information
    • test scores
    • interview notes
    • wage garnishment
    • emergency information
    • sales reports

Unemployment Insurance Documents – These documents should be kept separate from other personnel information and filed by year and last name. This makes referencing them easier and keeps auditors confined only to this information.

I-9 File – All I-9’s should be in a separate file together sorted by year and by last name. This keeps auditors confined only to the I-9 information. You should also have the files separated for:

    • active employees
    • inactive employees

Medical file – Separate these forms out by employee but keep them separate from the rest of the personnel files (public or private).

    • Enrollment forms
    • All other medical information

Maintaining employee paperwork and documentation is critical as you review performance, promotions, terminations and salary. Keeping a well-organized personnel file makes good business sense and will ultimately provide more effective legal protection should the need arise. For more information about improving your documentation for unemployment insurance claims and lowering unemployment costs, visit us on the web at www.UnemploymentTracker.com.