Employee Files: What to Keep in Them
By: MARY M. KRAKOW
Where to Keep the Records
All employers must implement a system for retaining employee records. Employers must decide where to keep employee records, what files to create, and what to keep in the files. Where to Keep the Records All employee records should be kept in locked cabinets in a secure area, with access allowed only to individuals who have a business need-to-know. When determining where to store employee records, employers should keep in mind that various laws dictate that employers must keep certain documents confidential and be able to produce certain documents on demand for inspection by employees, union representatives, or government agencies.
What Files to Create
- Employers generally should create separate files for the following:
- Personnel-type records in a "personnel file"
- Medical and benefit records in a confidential "medical/benefits file"
- Certain payroll records in a "payroll file"
- Employee I-9 forms in an "I-9 file"
- Other miscellaneous files as necessary
The first two sets of records can be stored side-by-side in separate sections of one file or by record classification in entirely separate files or drawers, generally in alphabetical order. The payroll records, I-9 forms, and any miscellaneous files should each be in separate files.
What to Keep in the Files
The following guidelines may be used for each file type:
- Application documents: Application, résumé, records of reference checks, and interview notes if a standardized set of interview questions was used (If the notes are the result of a random set of questions for the candidate, it is better to keep the notes in the maker's "hiring" file; interview notes for candidates not hired must be kept in a "hiring" file for no less than one year, longer if covered by laws requiring a longer retention period);
- All applicable job descriptions;
- New hire paperwork: Direct deposit, authorization for a deduction or withholding of pay, records reflecting name, address and emergency contact, any offer letter or employment contract, employee handbook acknowledgement, harassment policy acknowledgement, signed confidentiality policy, and any records of property assigned to the employee;
- Performance records: Memos, notes, and letters relating to performance (both good and bad), performance evaluations, training records, and disciplinary documentation (including, but not limited to, documentation of oral warnings, copies of written warnings, and termination records);
- Attendance records: Documentation regarding dates and reasons for leaves of absence, vacation/paid time off, other personal time off, sick leave and leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), but no medical records or medical information pertaining to the above; and
- Employment history: Documentation showing date of hire, dates of job changes (promotions, demotions, transfers, and layoff), all pay changes with effective dates and reason, and general fringe benefit information.
- Insurance (e.g., health, dental, life, disability) and benefit (e.g., 401(k), pension, profit sharing) enrollment forms and claims information;
- Any medical exam information for new hires and/or current employees
- Drug and/or alcohol testing-related documents;
- Worker's compensation records;
- Medical documentation for FMLA leave and other types of leave related to an employee's medical condition. Actual dates of the leave (attendance records) should also be kept in the personnel file; and
- Records relating to return to work medical evaluations, medical work restrictions, and reasonable accommodation.
- Paperwork related to garnishments, loans or advances from the company;
- Employee time cards/sheets;
- Records that include name, address, date of birth, job title, and pay rate and the dates of applicable pay changes;
- Work schedules;
- Documentation identifying race, ethnicity, or veteran's status that the employer must maintain for purposes of completion of the annual EEO-1 form (for all employers with 100 or more employees and all federal affirmative action employers), Vets 100 form (for employers with a federal contract), or federal or state affirmative action programs;
- I-9 forms for all employees.
Other Separate Files:
- Benefit plan records: Plan descriptions, summary plan descriptions, annual reports and summary annual reports for all company-sponsored benefit plans;
- Union documentation: Dues check-off information, membership cards, grievance information, any collective bargaining agreements, and other union-related documentation.
- Information regarding workplace accidents and injuries: OSHA logs and forms, annual summaries, and all First Report of Injury forms.
This is only a partial list. Employers may maintain additional, separate, employment-related files as issues arise (e.g., confidential investigation files for employee complaints of alleged harassment or discrimination; confidential files of any documents created as part of the company's defense to an employee's legal claims against the company, etc.).
Employers with questions regarding employee records should consult with legal counsel.