Your Practice's Missing Piece

Where and How to Properly Store Personal Employee Information

By: Erica Spechuilli

Whether you work in Human Resources or you’re a business owner trying to keep track of your employees’ files there are a few important things to note when organizing and storing employee information.

While it may be convenient to store everything about an employee in one file, this is not the way to do it. You should keep separate files for a few different categories. Often times people put all information into the employee personnel file which isn’t a good habit to get into.

The employee personnel file should contain only documents which refer to the employment relationship between the employee and the employer from application through termination. The employee personnel file is a highly sensitive file containing confidential information and should be treated as such by limiting the accessibility to the file only to those required to access it (employee’s immediate supervisor and Human Resources). The employee also has the right to request access to their own personnel file but at no time should the file be removed from the oversight of Human Resources!

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) forbids employers from including medical information such as reasonable accommodation requests, doctor’s notes, and workers’ compensation claims within an employee’s general personnel file. These documents must be maintained separately from the employee personnel file and must maintain an even higher level of security.

Federal I-9 forms should be kept separate from all other records and in one common location (confidential and protected folder in locked filing cabinet or confidential folder electronically with restricted access).

In addition to the above documents, there are also other records that should not be accessible to managers and supervisors due to the sensitivity of the information including documents that contain dates of birth, social security number, marital status, dependent information, immigration status, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, national origin and criminal history. A common solution to this challenge is to maintain an additional file that contains these records and limit the accessibility to these records to Human Resources and the employee.

Minimally, there should be four separate files storing sensitive information for your employees: Personnel File, Confidential File, Medical File and Benefits File. There should also be one common file for ALL I-9 forms including forms for terminated employees, hires, and re-hires.

The first question when considering where a document should be stored is what the intent of the document is.

Here are some ways to organize your employees’ documents appropriately:

Employee Personnel File

  • Job Application/Resume
  • Educational Transcripts
  • Job Description
  • Job Offer Letter/Employment Contract
  • Checklist from New Employee Orientation including trainings, material covered and by whom
  • Requests for Transfers, Promotions, Demotions, Layoffs
  • Letters of Recognition and/or Awards
  • Pay and Compensation Records
  • Education and Training Records
  • Handbook and Policy Acknowledgements
  • Employment Agreements such as non-compete, confidentiality agreements, company provided equipment, etc.
  • Performance Evaluations and Goal-Setting Records
  • Warnings, disciplinary notices, etc.
  • Notes on attendance
  • Employee Self-Assessments
  • Training Records
  • Competencies Assessments
  • Resignation Letter
  • Termination paperwork
  • Exit Interview documentation
  • Employment Termination Checklist  

Employee Confidential File

  • Reference and Background Check Results
  • Drug Test Results
  • Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) self-identification of gender and race/ethnicity
  • Affirmative Action self-identification of gender and veteran status
  • Child Support/Wage Garnishments
  • Litigation Documents
  • Workplace investigation records (other than disciplinary actions)
  • Requests for employment/payroll verification

Employee Medical File

  • Medical Questionnaires
  • Benefit Claims
  • Doctor’s Notes
  • Medical Leave Records
  • Worker’s Compensation Claims
  • Accommodation Requests

Employee Benefits File

  • Benefit Enrollment Forms
  • Updates to Enrollment
  • Beneficiary Designations