FAQs on Setting Up Personnel Files

August 6, 2020 at 4:00 AM

FAQs About Organizing Personnel Files

1. What guidelines should we follow when setting up and organizing personnel files?

"Personnel records" are records kept by an employer about an employee's qualifications for employment, promotion, transfer, additional compensation or disciplinary actions.

Note: A personnel record may not include personal information about another person.

Employees' medical files should be kept separate from their personnel files. This includes medical certifications, doctor's notes, requests for family or medical leave, results of medical exams, and the like. Medical files should be kept under electronic "lock and key," with access granted to only those who have a legitimate business need to know.

I-9 documentation also should be kept separate from employees' personnel files. Although keeping I-9s separate is not a legal requirement, it is a good practice. Reasons: In the event of an audit, government officials will not have access to personal employee information. Not only that, but it will make it easier for you to extract the information when the government asks for it. Keeping I-9 and EEO-1 forms apart from personnel files also limits unnecessary access to citizenship, national origin, race and other protected information.

2. What type of information is typically kept in an employee personnel file?

Here is a list of general information that usually goes into a personnel file. Note that there are no laws requiring that you keep personnel files, per se, but federal, state and industry-specific laws may require certain types of documentation to be retained.

  • Personal information, including name, address, Social Security number, date of birth and education
  • Job application and resume
  • Licenses or certificates needed for the job
  • A signed handbook receipt or employment contract
  • Policy sign offs
  • Attendance and leave records
  • Payroll records
  • Performance appraisals, commendation letters, merit awards
  • Disciplinary records
  • Job description, title, location and schedule
  • Records related to promotions, transfers, layoffs or termination (including exit interviews)
  • Safety and accident reports
  • Emergency contact information
  • Company-provided training and education records
  • Fringe benefit information, such as name of insurance provider and pension plan participation
  • Grievance records (if unionized)

The Massachusetts personnel record law, M.G.L. chapter 149, § 52C, allows a current or former employee to get a copy of their personnel file. The law requires an employer to give access to personnel records to employees and former employees upon written request. This applies to all employers. However, for employers with 20 or more employees, the law requires that they include a particular list of information in the file, which includes:

  • The name, address, date of birth, job title and description
  • Rate of pay (i.e. salary or hourly rate) and any other compensation paid to the employee
  • Starting date of employment
  • The job application of the employee, including resumes or other similar documents submitted in response to the employer’s advertisement for an open position
  • All performance evaluations
  • Evidence of substandard performance in the workplace, including written warnings
  • Lists of probationary periods, waivers signed by the employee, copies of dated termination notices, and any other documents relating to disciplinary action of the employee

3. Immigration Records

If any of your employees hold immigration status, Immigration Records must be kept in a physical public access file (PAF) to be available. 20 CFR Section 655.760 indicates that employers of H-1B, H-1B1, and E-3 nonimmigrants must make the following documents available for public inspection at the employer’s principal place of business or at the place of employment within one day after the date of submission of a Labor Condition Application (LCA) to the Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) allows an employer to maintain an electronic version of the PAF. The file includes the following:

· Copy of the certified LCA and cover pages

· Documentation which provides the wage rate to be paid

· Explanation of the system that the employer used to set the “actual wage” the employer has paid or will pay workers in the occupation

· Documentation the employer used to establish the “prevailing wage” for the occupation

· Document(s) demonstrating compliance with union/employee notification requirements

· Summary of recruitment methods, if employer hired any “non-exempt” H-1B workers

· Summary of benefits offered to U.S. workers in the same occupational classifications as H-1B nonimmigrants

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