Top Tips for Organizing Personnel Files

April 13th, 2017 by

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)

Benefits/401(k):

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

Medical:

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

Payroll:

  • 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.

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