When it comes to managing your company’s human resources and protecting the business in the event of a lawsuit, half the battle is ensuring that your organization maintains complete and accurate personnel records. The information below is aimed to help you do just that.

What Should Be In Your Personnel Files

  • Hiring Documents – Applications, resumes, and offer letters.
  • Status Change Forms – Promotions, merit increases, demotions, and transfers.
  • Signed Agreements  – Such agreements run the gamut, but often include at-will employment, confidentiality, arbitration, commission, intellectual property, uniform deposit, property return, and other contracts.
  • Attendance & Leave Records – Attendance records are crucial to ensuring compliance with laws covering family and medical leave as well as overtime and minimum wage payments. Related schedule information and changes, time records, and vacation and leave requests (along with any subsequent decisions related to those requests) should always be saved. BUT REMEMBER – NO MEDICAL DOCUMENTS OR INFORMATION SHOULD BE INCLUDED WITH THESE RECORDS.
  • Performance and Disciplinary Documents – Job descriptions, performance evaluations, disciplinary warnings, memos and notices, demotion or suspension paperwork, commendations, and termination paperwork.
  • Acknowledgments — Signed acknowledgments of employee handbooks, rules, policies, safety training, and orientation.
  • Payroll Records – As with attendance records, these documents are necessary to prove, among other things, that your organization complied with the relevant wage and hours laws. All employees should have their full name (for Social Security purposes), payroll or employer ID number, home address, date of birth, sex, tax withholding status (W-4), direct deposit authorization, start of the workweek, rate of pay, pay calculation, total wages per pay period, deductions/additions to wages (including garnishments or wage assignments), and dates of payment on file.
  • Benefits Information – Overviews, brochures, plan documents, and signed enrollment forms. BUT REMEMBER – NO MEDICAL DOCUMENTS OR INFORMATION SHOULD BE INCLUDED WITH THESE RECORDS.
  • Miscellaneous — Emergency contact information, work permits (e.g., for minors), safety and skill certifications, and unemployment claims.

What Shouldn’t Be In Your Personnel Files (But You Should Keep In Separate Files)

  • Hiring Documents Part 2 — Although most hiring documents can be kept in the employee’s ordinary personnel file, credit/background check and reference information should be kept in a separate location.
  • Insurance Records and Medical Information — Medical records accompanying leave requests, requests for reasonable accommodation, and work restrictions; drug testing results; pre-employment physical results; and insurance documentation containing medical details.
  • Workers’ Compensation Claims — Claims, letters, and accompanying medical records.
  • Eligibility to Work Documents – Verification of Citizenship or Legal Alien Status (I-9 Form) and supporting documentation (e.g., Social Security Card, birth certificate, etc.).
  • Applicant Flow Data (applies only to government contractors and other employers with affirmative action obligations) — Applicant flow data, indicating race, ethnicity, and gender, should be unsigned and kept separate from the personnel file.

Although the list above is by no means exhaustive, it covers the broad categories of documents that arise in the course of ordinary human resource management. The goal of these guidelines is to assist you and your organization in staying on the “nice” list by capturing a complete and accurate history of your workforce while simultaneously complying with the law.