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Maintaining Proper Employee Files

April 10, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 112

Paperwork may be one of the most dreaded words in the working world, at least for the person(s) who have to manage that task. Knowing the importance of developing a good system may diminish the feeling of dread that many associate with paperwork. Taking the time to thoughtfully create and then maintain proper employee files will definitely pay off in the big picture. In addition to having all employee related documents centrally located they will also be more readily available when needed, and trust us, they will be needed at some point. Information contained in employee files are needed for many decisions such as awarding merit based pay increases, promotions, layoff decisions and terminations. This brings us to the question of: what should and should not be kept in an employee file? The answer is most, but not all, important job-related documents should be placed in an employee file. There are some items that should be retained separately and should only be available on a need to know basis. Below is some guidance on how differentiate what should be included.

The General/Main Personnel files should include items such as:

  • New Hire Documents: Application for Employment, Offer Letter, Direct Deposit information, state & federal tax withholding forms, Employment Agreement/Contract and any other company specific new hire paperwork
  • Performance Documents: performance reviews, disciplinary notes/memos, employee counseling forms, performance improvement plans, salary increases and employment separation information
  • Policy/Procedure Acknowledgements: Employee Handbook Acknowledgement, Arbitration Agreements, acknowledgement of company/department policies not included in the employee handbook, and records of training
  • Additional Items: Personal Information Changes, attendance Records, Mandatory Licenses, Emergency Contact Information

There are a number of items that should be kept separate from the General/Main file for a number of reasons. Privacy is the main reason for this information to be separated from the rest of the employee file and this particular information should strictly be on a need to know basis. The items that should be maintained independently are outlined below:

  • Voluntary Affirmative Action Form: This forms contains information regarding the ethnicity, disabled and veteran status of applicants. This information cannot be used in making employment decisions and the applicant/employee may prefer to keep this information as private as possible.
  • Medical Information: This information can come in many forms and should be kept as confidential as possible. If you have a disabled worker this information is required to be kept in a separate file, and this is the best practice for all employees. Medical Information includes the following items; Family Medical Leave request forms & related paperwork, return to work releases, Information about disabilities requiring accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), records that relate in any way to an employee's medical history, Benefit Enrollment Forms that may contain medical information on the employee or their dependants and Workers Compensation Claims & related documents
  • I-9 Form: This form is required for all new employees and verifies the employee is legally authorized to work in the United States. The government is entitled to audit and inspect these forms. If audited you want to provide the auditors the information they need and no more. If you hand over an entire employee file the auditor has the right to review everything in the file, this throws the employees privacy out the window and could also open the door to additional questions and investigations.
  • Miscellaneous Information: Anything that does not directly relate to an employee's job performance or qualifications should not be included, such as; unsubstantiated comments or criticisms (Michele seems tired since becoming a mother) to comments related to an employee's private life or any area that is protected such as their religion, political beliefs, ethnicity, etc.

It is important to remember that in many states, such as California, employees have the right to review their employee files and the last thing you want is a random document you didn't need in the file to come back and haunt you. A good rule to follow is: If you don't want a judge or jury to see it, don't put it in the employee file.

Source: EzineArticles
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