New Supervisor and Personnel Files

Can someone give me their policy on allowing supervisors to view the contents of their suborinates personnel files?

We have a new manager that wants to pull the files of his employees.  Does anyone allow the supervisor to view the employees' file in the Human Resource department?  Or do you only pull what the supervisor requests to see?


  • 4 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • There is no employment law or privacy issue to keep the new manager from reviewing the files of the employees he manages.  To maintain control of the files, you may require that he review the files in the HR Department or in the HR Manager's presence.  Or you may decide to only let the new manager review past performance reviews, employee memos, or disciplinary records.

    Here is a sample policy on access to employment files.


    Employment files are the property of [XYZ Company], and access to the information they contain is restricted.  Generally, only manage­ment and supervisory officials of the Company who have a legiti­mate reason to review information in a file are allowed to do so.  With reasonable advance notice, an employee may review material in his or her file, but only in the presence of an authorized management official.

  • [quote user="mbaker01"]

    There is no employment law or privacy issue to keep the new manager from reviewing the files of the employees he manages.


    I  agree that there is no specific law barring this but I disagree with the inference that it is therefore OK.  There are substantial risks depending on what's in the file and what the supervisor does with it.  A "need to know basis" is considerably safer.

    Employee files often contain information that the supervisor has no need to see, some of which can give rise to discrimination claims.

    For example, if your organization happens to keep I-9s in the EE file (not recommended but certainly not illegal), then the supervisor would have access to age and national origin.  The W-4 may indicate marital status and the worksheet that is generally never removed but sometimes filled out may indicate how many children they have.  The manager has no specific right to have or general need to know any employee's home address (ever read a stalking suit filed by an employee on an agent of the employer?)

    I would want to know what the supervisor wants to know and then tell them if they have a legitimate business interest in that information.

    Also, it is important to note that often line supervisors and management employees, while having similar responsibilities as agents of the company under a number of statutes, are not really equal in terms of their training and experience, and thereby their sophistication and judgment in handling information in employee files.  There are reasons why we don't let every bozo who falls under the management definition in the NLRA look in employee files.

  • Agree wth TXHRGuy, you definitely want to restrict manager access to performance/KSA/compensation information only. 

    Our files are set up so that the main folder has compensation and history/performance information and we have removable internal folders for everything else.  When a manager wants to see a file we can pull the internal folders so that the manager only views the 'need to know' stuff.  It does include the employee's original application and resume so that the manager can review that history as well, and those generally do include employee's home addresses.  That is not information I have ever needed to restrict, but depending on your organization you may want to do that.

     Managers may only view the file in the HR office, and in the presence of HR staff so that things don't get moved or disappear.  :-)



  • I believe we are all saying the same thing :-)
Sign In or Register to comment.