How should employee files be organized?

Kyle Cupp

Kyle Cupp

There are rules governing how employee files should be organized. To comply with these requirements, we recommend having five separate files for each employee. We outline a system below:

  • I-9 file: Keep all Form I-9s in a separate master file or three-ring binder.
  • Medical file: This file should contain everything related to an employee’s medical history, including health insurance enrollment forms. It’s important to separate this file because you cannot legally base personnel decisions on an individual’s medical history. In addition, various privacy laws and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) require that you keep confidential employee medical records separate from basic personnel files. The retention period will depend on the type of record.
  • Personnel file: This file should contain items that were a factor in the employee’s hiring and employment. It should also include items that will have any impact on their employment in the future. This includes performance reviews and corrective action records.
  • Payroll records file: This file should contain the employee’s W-4 and any other payroll-related documents containing the employee’s SSN or other protected information, including garnishments.
  • Injury file: This file should contain workers’ compensation claim records and injury reports, and any additional medical records pertaining to the injury. It’s okay to start this file only if an employee suffers an injury on the job.

Keep employee files in a secure location that is only accessible to those in the HR function or with a legitimate need to review the information. In locked cabinets inside a locked HR office, for example. You can store the information electronically if that makes more sense for your business. Just ensure that it’s well secured and backed up to prevent data loss. Note, too, that there are specific requirements for storing I-9s electronically.