Help with Employee Personnel Filing

I am somewhat new to HR and new to the company I am employed at.  My first project is making sure our employee personnel files are in order.  Can someone direct me to a website or point me in the direction of a guideline of what folders I should have set up for each employee and what should be contained in each folder?  Thank you!


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  • If you have a membership to this website,, they have some good information.  If you don't then you may want to look into it.  They have a lot of good information for those that are new to HR.

    Just as a general guideline here are some of the things that should be in the file - application, job description, offer letter, pay plan or change in pay information, performance reviews, acknowledgement for handbook, etc.

    Things that should not be - medical records (should be in a separate file, I also put my benefits information in this file), I-9s (should be in a separate file, I actually have mine in a binder), garnishments, confidential investigations (like sexual harassment).


  • What about Unemployment Info? When we get the notice of a claim from the State of Illinois - should those go into the individual employee file or should they all be kept together in a separate binder (like the I-9's)? We have about 90-100 seasonal employees who start work in the Spring & get laid off in the fall for the winter months. Every year they all collect unemployment for the 3-4 months they are laid off so I have tons of these notices.
  • Where do you keep the result of a background investigation?

     Thank you!

  • We are going to start having applicants complete a number of things online, when they come in to apply, including their application and a personality profile.  If the applicant is hired, does anyone know if it is necessary to file a paper copy of the application in their personnel file, if the electronic copy is available online?
  • Here is the breakdown we use for our filing – it can be difficult to get this going since the result is we have 7 files for each employee, but we have found it to be worth it in the long run! Some of these forms are specific to us, but you will get the feel for how and why we separated them the way we did. Hope this helps!<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />


    As a side note, when we were converting our files for our employees we did an audit for any information we were missing.


    As for the unemployment notices we were advised to keep them with the payroll info for the employee and not separate (we are in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Illinois).


    HR Filing Audit

    Breakdown by Folder


    Personnel File (MAIN):

    • Applications
    • Resumes
    • Reference Letters/Notes???
    • Caliper Results
    • Education/Certification Information
    • Offer Letters
    • Non-Compete Agreements
    • Confidentiality Agreements
    • Employee Handbook Receipt
    • Performance Reviews
    • Information on Promotions
    • Information on Demotions
    • Training Documentation
    • Disciplinary Notes (Employee Counseling Forms)


    Payroll File (Sub-Folder #1)

    • New Employee Information Form
    • Federal W-4
    • State Withholding Form
    • Direct Deposit Forms
    • Garnishment Information
    • Child Support Information
    • Additional authorizations for payroll deductions


    Benefits (Sub-Folder #2):

    • Benefit Enrollment Forms (Medical, Dental, Flexible Spending EAP)
    • Claims Information
    • Listing of Claims
    • 401K Enrollment Form
    • 401K Data Change Form
    • 401K Loan Paperwork
    • 401K Hardship Withdrawal Paperwork
    • 401K Unclaimed Quarterly Statements
    • Beneficiary Information
    • Life Insurance Enrollment Form
    • STD/LTD Enrollment Form
    • Vision Enrollment Form


    Medical (Sub-Folder #4):

    • Drug Test Results
    • Worker’s Comp Information
    • Work Releases
    • Doctor’s Notes
    • FMLA Paperwork
    • Requests For Accommodation


    Confidential (Sub-Folder #5):

    • Background Check Authorization Forms
    • Background Check Results
    • Social Security Verification Results
    • Investigation Notes
    • Grievances/Complaints


    EEO (Sub-Folder #6):

    • Notes from Discrimination Complaints
    • Documents that Identity an individuals race and sex


  • The medical file should not be with the personnel file. It should be a completely separate file in a seperate location.

    Also discrimination notes and investigation notes should be kept separate.




  • Excellent...this gives me a great base to work off of!
  • Training documentation should be kept in a seperate folder as well.  I am in Ohio but I believe that is standard.
  • [quote user="EStewart6032"]Training documentation should be kept in a seperate folder as well.  I am in Ohio but I believe that is standard.[/quote]

    That's standard -- line supervisors need to know who can be assigned to what but they don't need to be rooting around in employee files.

  • Great point - Thanks  

     Quick question: Terminated / Released employees... does the record seperation apply to their file as well.  Once they are terminated I usually categorize all paperwork but condense to one file?  I can't seem to find the 'rule of thumb' on this.

    Anyone ??? Thanks

  • We condense down to one file after the employee has been terminated for a certain amount of time (i.e. 6 months). Until then it is easier to move their file to the terminated employees cabinet (locked, of course) so that the information is easily accessible when needed. We had a summer intern who we assigned to auditing employee files. In one days time she had condensed every single employee's file into ONE folder - current AND terminated........Talk about a major headache! We have 6 files in each active employee's folder. We have: medical, payroll, training, performance, time and attendance and acknowledgements. We keep I-9's in a separate binder as well as drug test results. Work comp is also kept in a separate area and each claim is assigned their own folder. It makes it way easier during a work comp or OSHA audit to pull the files that way rather than dig around in each employee's medical folder. I think that it is really just a matter of preference. There are State and Federal guidelines for certain information, but as to the rest, it just depends on what is easiest for you. I would also highly recommend that you look into getting some kind of HR Database software. We keep electronic records in addition to our hard copy files and it is a lot more time efficient to just open it up on your computer rather than pull a file and look the information up by hand.
  • Thank you for the info. 

     I have most of the files sepereated as sub files within the main file.   I really need to categorize the medical files.  I have all the medical information, dr. slips, BWC etc. compiled into one folder and it really is a headache to review. 

    We are a small company and hired someone to help us in the office.  She made A HUGE mess of things too.  Didn't condense folders but she was in charge of running payroll and made a huge mess of electronic information.  Needless to say it caused havoc with our employees who saw the electronic information on the stubs which was not accurate.  

    Thanks again!

  • Also, another tip, you should't use the employee's name and/or social security number as your filing method for the confidential and medical files.  The best practice is to use their employee number or set up another numbering system.  Using their name is fine for the general personnel file though.
  • I am a new member to the HR team at a non-profit company and their employee filing is all mixed up. Their I-9's, child support, and medical forms are all in the employee's main file. Are there laws against having everything mixed in one file and if there are, is there a website where I can find that law to show my boss? I am the HR Assistant and having to go search through folders to find child support paperwork etc. is silly to me. At the last job I had, everything was kept separate.
  • You are correct that these items should be kept separately.  I would recommend getting a membership to this website ( for the state you are located in and/or getting a SHRM membership. Both have information on HR policies and procedures. If the employee files are messed up then it is very likely that there are other issues in HR as well that both of these websites can help you with.
  • Child support docs can be in the EE file.

    I-9s CAN be in the employee file but there are a lot of good reasons why they shouldn't be.  Among them are issues like getting all the I-9s back out of the employee files before the auditors show up after they give you a 48 hour notice of impending audit.  If you can't get all the I-9s out, you'll end up giving them access to your EE files.  That sounds like fun.

    Medical information of ANY kind, including doctor's excuse notes, health insurance forms with health related questions on them, and actual medical records including drug test results may not be in an employee file.  ADA requires that they be seprate and most people generally agree that separate lock and key from EE files is a good idea.

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