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Electronic and Paper Files

    Most employers have at least three or four different employment record filing systems. The main personnel file that contains employee performance information; the medical/confidential file that contains protected, nonjob-related or confidential information; and the payroll records are usually maintained separately by the payroll administrator(s). Form I-9 files should always be maintained separately. Additional files may be necessary to maintain hiring records, investigations, drug test results and other documents. Employers must give special consideration to where and how they maintain these files, limiting access to only those with a need to know and protecting applicants and employees from discrimination, identity theft, breach of privacy, and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) violations.


    Electronic files (skip this section unless your personnel records are maintained electronically)

    • Do you have a good document management system?

    • Have you established clear parameters around which employees have access to which files?

    • Have you implemented proven security and password protections to ensure access is provided only to those with a need to know?

    • Do you have a backup system in place to ensure data are not lost?

    • Do you have a secondary backup system in the event both the software and its backup are destroyed?

    • Have you provided training to end users on how to properly use and protect information in the document management system?

    Paper files

    • Are the personnel files maintained in a locked and secure cabinet, or have proper electronic security features been developed?

      • Have all documents that contain protected information been removed from the personnel file? (Note: Documents that include medical information, Social Security numbers or other protected class information such as age, race, gender, national origin, disability, marital status and religious beliefs should not be kept in the personnel files. Supervisors should have access or be able to request access to personnel files to assist them in making employment decisions.)

    • Are personnel files organized in a logical manner so that information is easy to find? Note: How to organize the files is up to the company. The two most common practices are to maintain files in chronological order or to have files with different sections for different types of documents (e.g., performance, training, employment).

    • Is there a policy or consistent practice regarding employee access to personnel files?

    • Is this policy/practice compliant with any relevant state laws?

    Medical and confidential files

    • Are medical/confidential files maintained in a locked and secured cabinet?

    • Do you restrict access to only those with a need to know? (Note: Supervisors usually do not have a need to know unless there is an accommodation requirement, in which case only the information they require to assess accommodation needs should be released to them. Only a few people should have access to these records to keep them maintained appropriately.)

    Terminated Employee Files

    • Are terminated files locked and secured with limited access?

    • Does your company have a regular (weekly, monthly or quarterly) disposal plan for documents that have exceeded record retention guidelines?

    • Are employment records that have met or exceeded record retention requirements disposed of via shredding, burning or fully destroying these records prior to disposal? (Note: Relevant state and federal record retention guidelines.)

    • Are files related to a current or potential lawsuits maintained by legal counsel or in some other way marked to be exempted from any disposal process until after the suit is closed? (Note: Under discovery and e-discovery laws, it is illegal to destroy documents related to a current or potential lawsuit.)

    • Does your company have a written record retention and destruction policy and procedure?