Maintain personnel files

Learn about the laws that govern employee record keeping.
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Maintain personnel files FAQs

Employee files often contain sensitive, confidential information and there may be federal laws that govern how you maintain personnel records. It's important to implement best practices procedures to make sure you stay in compliance.

What should be in an employee personnel file?

In an employee personnel file, you'll want to keep basic details such as contact information, employment status, emergency contacts information, job applications and employment offer. You'll want to create a schedule for periodically updating employee information.

Items to include in a personnel file:

  • Performance evaluations
  • Job description
  • Disciplinary actions
  • Attendance records
  • Benefit information
  • Signed agreements (i.e.non-disclosure)
  • W-4 Forms
  • Written complaints from clients or coworkers
  • Training programs completed
  • Exit interview and terminations documents

What to not keep in a personnel file

  • Medical records
  • Form I-9s
  • Discriminatory information

How long do you have to keep personnel files?

You may hear different answers to this question. To cover every contingency, you'd keep records for six years. The minimum amount of time you need to keep personnel or hiring records is one year; however, that does not cover every situation. While keeping records longer may be cumbersome or seem tedious, it may be prudent in some cases. Keep in mind that for the most part, keeping the records may help protect your company.

How long to keep personnel records in regards to labor laws:

One year: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Three years: Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Six Years: Health and pension benefits, COBRA information

How do I keep employee medical files secure?

Medical records must be kept secure. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that medical files must be securely stored separately from regular personnel files. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) also require that medical and genetic information to be stored separately.

Best practices for keeping employee medical files secure:

  • Limit access to only those who need access to perform their job.
  • Keep paper copies in a locked cabinet in a locked room.
  • Encrypt electronic copies and, if possible, do not store on portable devices such as a laptop or phone.
  • Block digital files from being downloaded, emailed or printed.
  • Track access (who accessed and when).
  • Train employees about security procedures.
  • Don't store information you no longer need.