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Maintaining Employee Personnel Files

Employers should maintain a personnel file on each employee. Not only will this assist you in basic administration tasks, but it will also be helpful in reducing your risk of a claim if your documentation is in order. You should periodically review the files to be sure that they contain everything they should and that old or unnecessary information is removed. You don’t want a document that you didn’t know existed to become evidence if you end up in a lawsuit.

Keep 4 separate files for employee records:

  1. Confidential medical records
  2. Pre-employment records
  3. I-9 documents
  4. Personnel records

Some of the items that may be kept in the file containing personnel records are:

  • Employment application and/or resume
  • Employment Agreement or Offer Letter
  • Acknowledgement of receipt of Employee Handbook
  • Job description
  • Payroll forms
  • Form W-4
  • Records reflecting a change in payroll rate, job title, job duties
  • Changes such as name change, date of birth or dependants
  • Emergency contact information
  • Write-ups, warning, discipline notices
  • Wage attachments or garnishment notices
  • Forms relating to employee benefits
  • Attendance and absence records
  • Performance appraisals, performance improvement plans
  • Complaints from customers and/or coworkers
  • Awards or citations for excellent performance
  • Resignation letter
  • Termination forms

Some of the items that may be kept in the file containing confidential medical records are:

  • Family/medical leave request forms
  • Return to work releases
  • Doctor’s notes
  • Workers’ compensation records
  • Medical information about the employee related to reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act or Fair Employment and Housing Act
  • Results of medical tests
  • Any other medical information

Some of the items that may be kept in the file containing pre-hire records are:

  • Background check results
  • Investigative consumer reports
  • Credit check results
  • Letters of reference

I-9 forms

Maintain all Form I-9s in two binders for USCIS, one binder for current employees and one binder for terminated employees. The government is entitled to inspect these forms, and if it does, you don't want the agents viewing the rest of the employee's personnel information at the same time. Not only would this compromise employee’s privacy, but it might also open the company up to additional questions and investigation. I-9 forms must be maintained for 3 years after the date of hire or 1 year after the date of termination, whichever is later.

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