Posts Tagged ‘personnel files’

Top Tips for Organizing Personnel Files

Thursday, April 13th, 2017

At CAI, we receive numerous calls from our members asking how to organize and maintain compliance with personnel files. If you were to take compliance guidance from government agencies literally you would conclude that you need to have a lot of separate files spread throughout many different file cabinets.  While you might get a point for being compliant, this scenario just isn’t reasonable for most employers.  Fortunately, we offer an easier way to organize your files that balance the need to be reasonably compliant with your need to be practical.

There are certain types of information that need to be maintained separately from the employee’s main file. Below I have listed the different types of files that I have used in my filing system, of course as long as you are maintaining confidential documents separate from the main general personnel file, you can develop a system that works best for your company.  A process that worked well for us was to have our medical files locked away separately. The other files listed below were kept inside a general employee file (we used a multi-tab folder similar to this one) in small manila folders that could be removed if a supervisor needed to review the file. It is also a good idea to keep your I9s completely separate (we kept in a multi-tab expanding file sorted by last name alphabetically).

Pre-Employment Information:

  • Background checks
  • Drug screenings
  • Credit checks
  • Reference Checks
  • Any EEOC Pre-Employment Disclosures (Self-Identify Veteran or Disability Status)


  • Enrollment information
  • Beneficiary information
  • Distribution information
  • Any benefit related information (notices, request for information, etc)


  • Doctor Notes
  • Leave Requests (including FMLA)
  • ADA Accommodation Request information
  • Incident Reports
  • OSHA Incidents
  • Workers Compensation Claims/Incidents


  • Federal and State tax forms (W4 and NC4)
  • Garnishment requests
  • W2s
  • Any payroll information with Social Security numbers
  • Request for employment/wage verification
  • Direct Deposit Authorization Form

Confidential File:

  •  EEOC Claim information
  • Investigation information (EEOC, internal investigations)
  • Settlement claims

General Employee File:

  • Employment Application/Resume
  • Offer Letter
  • Any policy acknowledgments (confidentiality, code of conduct, handbook, etc)
  • Performance appraisals
  • Pay/Compensation information
  • Disciplinary actions, documents
  • All promotion, transfer, demotion, layoff information
  • Exit Interview
  • Termination documents

So to review, you have one separate medical file, one file with all of your I-9’s and then organize everything else into one big pendaflex file.  Alternatively, you could convert to electronic personnel files, including I-9’s.

Overall, the most important aspect of maintaining compliance with personnel files is securing the access to the files. The files should be kept in a secure location (behind “lock and key”) and access should only be granted to specific employees (probably within the HR department or specific information to supervisors as outlined in your personnel file policy).  On that note, it is important to remember that access to the files should even be restricted within the HR department on a “need to know” basis: the benefits specialist doesn’t need access to the confidential file, the recruiting specialist doesn’t need access to the medical file, etc.

CAI delivers HR, compliance, and people development solutions to 1,100+ NC companies to help them build engaged, well-managed and low-risk workplaces. Contact us to find out how we can help your company.

Emily’s primary area of focus is providing expert advice and support in the areas of employee relations and federal and state employment law compliance as a member of the Advice & Resolution team for CAI. Additionally, Emily advises business and HR leaders in operational and strategic human resources areas such as talent and performance management, employee engagement, and M&A’s. Emily has 10+ years of broad-based HR business partnering experience centering around employee relations, compliance & regulatory employment issues, strategic and tactical human resources, and strong process improvement skills.

Employee Access to Personnel Files

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014
Renee' Watkins, HR Advisor

Renee’ Watkins, HR Advisor

CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team answers several questions from members daily. Many of the questions the Team receives concern employee personnel files, such as the one below:

Do employees have a right to review their personnel files?

In today’s post, Advice and Resolution Team Member Renee’ Watkins offers guidance for this employer issue:

For private employers, there is no North Carolina or federal law giving employees the right to see their file (absent a court order). However, from an employee relations perspective, it may be a good idea to grant access. The recommendation is that employers require employees to schedule an appointment, allow access to review their personnel file in the presence of the Human Resources Manager or a designated official, and that they not be allowed to remove items from the file or make photocopies.

It is also recommended that you review the file before the appointment to make sure that it does not contain information that should be kept separately (such as medical information, I-9’s, health insurance enrollment forms, background checks, references, self-identification of disability or veteran status, etc.).

Unlike employees in the private sector, state law provides that certain items in a public employee’s personnel file are a matter of public record and subject to inspection, thus granting access for public employees in North Carolina. Various laws permit access for state, county and city employees, as well as those of public hospitals, water and sewer authorities, community colleges and school districts. The following items in a public employee’s personnel file are a matter of public record and available to persons who request the information: name; age; date of original employment; current position title; current salary; date and amount of most recent increase or decrease in salary; date of most recent promotion, demotion, transfer, suspension, separation, or other change in position classification; and the office to which the employee is currently assigned.

If you have additional questions, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team at 919‑878‑9222 or 336‑668‑7746.