It’s easy to assume that the storage and maintenance of employee files is quite simple. However, they have a bit more complexity to them than one may think.
We’ve worked with several employers to have the best practice of grabbing a file, throwing all employee-related documents into it, storing the file alphabetically and viola; it’s done. Could that be you? If it is, you could be opening yourself up to avoidable risk. Have no fear, we are here to help you get your files up to par.
There are three employee related files that an employer must maintain to ensure that you are legally compliant in your record keeping
• General Employee File
• Medical File
• I-9 File
The organization of documentation within each file is primarily up to you. However, different guidelines are associated with different employee file types, which we will review shortly.
Before we get started, here are a few general accessibility and security measures that should take place to ensure that you are handling sensitive information correctly.
• Access to a personnel file is restricted to certain employees in most organizations. To provide optimal security of your employee's sensitive data, we recommend limiting access to your selected HR representative and business owner.
• Generally, employee access to his or her personnel file is allowed. But it is recommended that you create and distribute a policy outlining guidelines regarding file access. Many states have their regulations regarding this topic.
• Most organizations do not allow the employee's manager to access employee files. They expect the managers to keep relevant documentation in their employee file which is not the official personnel file.
• All files must reside in a safe, locked, inaccessible location. The file cabinet that houses your three files should be separate from each other. The filing cabinet must lock, and your chosen HR representative should have the only keys.
Let’s take a closer look at each required file and how to properly maintain them.
Employee Personnel File
This is the main personnel file an employer maintains for each employee. The personnel file stores the employment history of each employee.
What’s in this file- Application and resume, documentation of employment history, records of contribution and achievement, disciplinary notices, promotions, performance development plans, performance evaluations, and much more belong in a personnel file.
Documentation is necessary, so you have an accurate perspective of the employee's history. When you keep the right documentation stored correctly, you will ensure that you are protected against any legal action or issues. When you can demonstrate your rationale behind hiring, promotions, transfer, rewards, and recognition, and firing decisions through solid documentation and filing practices, you can sleep soundly.
The employee medical file has legal restrictions that the employer must know and heed. The employer must keep a medical file separately for each employee to ensure compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).
HIPAA requires employers to protect employee medical records as confidential; medical records should be stored separately from other business records. Never store employee medical records in the employee’s general personnel file.
What’s in this file- The employee medical file is the repository for everything that has to do with health, employee health-related leave, and benefits selections and coverage for the employee. This includes doctors notes and medical leave paperwork.
I-9 Forms File
The Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification is the form that is required by the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to prove an individual’s eligibility for employment in the United States.
An I-9 must be completed for every employee. Essentially there are two steps to completing the I-9:
1. The employee must complete section 1 and provide you with original identification that is listed on page 3 of the I-9.
2. The employer must complete section 2 within three days of the employees first day on the job and attach copies of the identification provided by the employee.
The form verifies that you have reviewed the approved forms of identification that prove the employee is legally authorized to work in the United States. There are some nuances to completing the I-9. To ensure that you are completing the I-9 correctly, check out the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) Handbook for Employers for more information. Click HERE to access the employer's the handbook.
To properly store and maintain this document, you will want to keep all employee I-9s, and the accompanying documentation separate from other files. The government may audit these forms. In the event of an audit, keeping your I-9s filed separately will ensure that you maintain company and employee confidentiality.
While it seems that managing three separate files could be quite cumbersome and time-consuming, it is easier than it seems. Having separate personnel, medical and I-9 files will help you to stay organized, compliant and secure. This will result in professional best practices that allow you and your team to focus on what you do best- growing and running your business.
Managing employee files is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to small businesses and their HR needs. HR Branches is here to help you take your HR from Hassle to “Handled!” Check out www.hrbranches.com to learn more how about how our cost-effective solution can help you gain some peace-of-mind today.
**HR Branches provides general information about Human Resources. Please note that the information provided, while reliable, is not legal advice. Please seek legal assistance, or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make sure your legal interpretation and decisions are correct for your location and circumstances.
Guest Post provided by: Reanna Werne, HR Branches
Thanks, Reanna, for the excellent information!
Founder of Unlimited Benefits and Financial Services Expert since 1994