How to maintain personnel files

Written by j.t. locke
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How to maintain personnel files
Personnel files are a record of an employee's time with a company. (file image by Byron Moore from

Personnel files serve as a record of an employee's time with a company. The person responsible for the company's personnel files needs to be knowledgeable and current on the various state and federal regulations, which concern record keeping of personnel files. Each state has different employment regulations. The Fair Labor Standards Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the American with Disabilities Act and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) all have a set of standards for record keeping by employers. By combining the information from the state and federal standards, a personnel file can be organised in such a way that it can serve as a time line of the employee's record with the company.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • File folders
  • Labels
  • Locking storage cabinet

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  1. 1

    Create two file folders for each employee's personnel file, labelling each folder with the employee's name using last name, first name and middle initial. One file folder will be used for personnel records and the other will be used for employee medical records.

    Keep the employee personnel files in alphabetical order and in a secure place. File medical records in a separate, secure place. According to HIPAA, an employee's medical records are to be treated as confidential information that is to be kept separate and away from the employee's personnel file.

    How to maintain personnel files
    Keep personnel files in alphabetical order and in a secure, locked cabinet. (cartella file 02 image by DAN from
  2. 2

    Place an information sheet on the inside cover of the file folder. Write the employee's name, date of birth, address, phone number and emergency contact numbers on the information sheet. Update this sheet yearly or as needed when the employee's information changes.

  3. 3

    Divide the employee's records into categories. According to the U. S. Department of Labor, suggested guidelines in the Fair Standards Labor Act do not require a particular form be kept for personnel records. The Act does require that certain information be kept in the personnel file; these categories include: Initial Hiring, Benefits, Job Performance, Payroll, Training and Certification and Termination Records.

    Initial Hiring records include the employee's application, resume, cover letter, job description and hiring salary. Benefits include 401(k) information, signed benefit plan, insurance information and signed insurance enrolment sheet. Job Performance include employee performance reviews. Payroll include copies of the employee's W-4, attendance records, copies of the employee's payroll and vacation time. Training and Certification include any training and certification documentation that the employee has received. Termination Records include the employee's resignation letter, exit interview and signed copies of the termination of the benefits package.

    How to maintain personnel files
    An employee's resume should not be discarded after the employee is hired. (resume image by Danil Vachegin from
  4. 4

    Label each section of the employee's personnel folder with the name of each category and place the corresponding documents in each section. Keep the records in chronological order, with the latest documents on top.

  5. 5

    Keep form I-9 separate from the personnel file. An I-9 is an Employment Eligiblity Verification form that all employers in the United States must complete and retain for every employee who they hire. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an employer must examine the documents that an employee presents to determine if they are genuine. A copy of the I-9 is available in the Resources section of this article. Refer to page five of the I-9 form for a complete list of acceptable documents to use in establishing employee eligibility.

  6. 6

    Store employee records in a locked cabinet with limited access. Designate a limited number of people who have access to the records. Keep employee personnel files and medical records personal and confidential. Allow the employee to have access to the records at certain times in a secure location.

Tips and warnings

  • The person responsible for the personnel files needs to be knowledgeable of the state and federal laws governing employment.
  • Do not remove employee personnel records from the file except for copying.
  • Keep all I-9s in the same folder, separate from the personnel file and medical records.
  • A fine can be imposed on the employer if I-9s are improperly completed.
  • Do not allow employees to remove and take original personnel file records.
  • An employee's personnel file should not be discussed throughout the company. They are personal and confidential documents.

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