What should be in a personnel file?

Posted: November 10, 2016

Employers should start a personnel file for each employee on or before the employee’s date of hire.  Personnel files should contain job-related documents, including:

  1. Hiring records, such as the employee’s job application and/or resume, interview notes, information regarding pre-employment tests taken, etc.;
  2. Offer letter, if any, and any employment contract or other agreements between the employer and employee;
  3. Signed acknowledgment of receipt of employee handbook and policies;
  4. On-boarding documents such as benefit application forms, direct deposit application, and emergency contact information;
  5. Job description;
  6. Job performance records, including evaluations, commendations, complaints from co-workers or customers, performance improvement plans, and warnings or other disciplinary actions;
  7. Attendance records, if applicable;
  8. Orientation and training records, if applicable;
  9. Salary increases and transfer or promotion records;
  10. Tax records, such as a completed IRS Form W-4 (however if documents with employee social security numbers are kept in personnel files, heightened confidentiality and security protocols may be warrented); and
  11. Termination or resignation records, if applicable, including any resignation letter, separation agreement, release, exit interview records, signed acknowledgement of return of company property, and insurance continuation forms.

Personnel files should not contain the following documents, which should be kept by employers in separate files:

  1. Medical records;
  2. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Form I-9s;
  3. Background checks, including criminal records checks and credit history checks;
  4. Investigation material, if any, including complaints, interviews, reports, findings and recommendations; and
  5. Records that do not directly relate to an employee’s job performance and qualifications, including any documents regarding an employee’s personal life, religion, politics, race, gender or any other protected category.