HRM: Employee Files Checklist

One of the most important functions of the human resources department is record-keeping, including employment files, benefits and safety management files, training and development records. The employee file contains a record of every employment action. Employment files—often called personnel files—require exacting, precise measures to ensure the files are accurate, complete and up-to-date. In many organizations, there are two types of employment files. The human resources department maintains a file for every single employee. The department also maintains what’s called a “supervisor” or “department” file. This file typically contains only information related to the employee’s attendance, performance and emergency contact.

Employee File Retention

The human resources file is confidential with access granted to only certain individuals in the human resources department. A critical element of human resources training is the confidentiality of employee files, and consequences for any breach of confidentiality. According to U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, employee files must be maintained for one year after the employee’s termination date. Further, employee records pertaining to wages, merit increases, promotions and related employment actions must be kept for up to three years, pursuant to the Fair Labors Standards Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Always check with your state regulations governing the retention of employment records. For example, Texas law concerning retention is four years in matters pertaining to employee fraud or breach of confidentiality.

HR Department Employee File Contents

The initial documents that go into an employee file are the application for employment, and any notes concerning the selection process, and interviews. Once the candidate has accepted the employment offer, she must prove eligibility to work in the U.S. Depending on the employee’s circumstances, this documentation could include identification, such as a birth certificate, Social Security card, driver’s license, passport or work visa documentation obtained from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.

Documents pertaining to background investigation and signed agreements concerning company disclosures and confidentiality are contained in the employment file. The signed acknowledgement for receipt of the handbook is also part of the employee’s file.

The employment file should also contain the following: documentation concerning disciplinary actions, commendations, performance evaluations, salary increases, bonuses, attendance, promotions, demotions, transfers and emergency contact information.

HIPAA Protected Employee Files

A separate employee file should be accessible to only designated individuals in the human resources department This separate file contains all information concerning medical examinations, health care insurance selections, disability statements and workers’ compensation matters. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), it is imperative that all medical documentation be maintained by the benefits section. Generally, it is a benefits manager who is certified as the HIPAA officer in charge of these confidential records.