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How to Organize an Employee Personnel File

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Whether your business makes and sells goods or provides a service, you naturally want to concentrate your efforts on selling those products or services, or enhancing them. It's kind of natural to consider anything else to be non-productive, but there's one non-productive activity that's critically important to your business. You must carefully organize your employee files to protect their confidentiality while making pertinent information available for things like payroll, regulatory compliance, and performance evaluation. Do not make the mistake of tossing an employee's resume, job application, I-9 form, W-4 form, workers compensation claim data and job performance evaluations into a single folder.

Choose a type of folder that can accommodate a lot of paperwork for each employee's personal file. Use a second folder for employee medical records. Hanging folders might be best for these; then you can incorporate manila subfolders inside them or use dividers between sections.

The first folder for each employee, the basic personal file, should contain the employee's personal information such as current address and phone number. Ask employees to update this information if necessary on a yearly basis, maybe at the beginning of the year or during open enrollment times. Emergency contact information should also be kept here as well.

If you divide this hanging folder into sections, the second section might contain the job application and resume, plus references and employer-employee contracts.

Place all documents the employee signed when he joined the company in the third section. Normally you will find forms such as the W-4 tax form, sexual harassment training, nondisclosure agreements and employee policy acknowledgment here -- but not the I-9 form.

Place employee reviews in a section. Any feedback on a review by the employee should be kept here too. Include documentation for salary increases or disciplinary actions. Keep copies of relevant diplomas, certificates or confirmation of training the employee has received in this basic personal folder as well. Maintain a section for insurance, health and retirement records.

All medical information should be kept in a separate file folder. Any information that relates to the employee's health would be stored here.

Keep a third file for any employee who is injured on the job. Here you will place accident reports, worker's compensation claims and any other medical records.

Place all I-9 forms in their own separate personnel file or binder, states HRdirect. Separate the I-9s of former employees from current employees.

If you do the payroll at your office, maintain a separate file just for payroll records.


While employees are allowed to review their files, they are not allowed to remove the file or items from it. Employees who disagreee with anything in their personnel files may insert a written statement into the file articulating that disagreement


All employee files should be maintained in a safe and locked environment.


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