Corporate records management and federal compliance investigations

by on July 8, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Your corporate records management plan should never give ammo to the plaintiffs

Documents related to investigations like EEOC charges, a union grievance, a harassment charge should be kept separate and out of the personnel files as part of your corporate records management policy

Document segregation in corporate records management
The primary reason for document segregation in corporate records management is you don’t want to raise the inference of retaliation if an employee has made a previous complaint. The supervisor doesn’t know about past complaints and doesn’t need to know about it. If they want to make a promotion decision, they don’t need to go to the personnel file and see that this person has complained about harassment in the past.If that person doesn’t get the job, they might be able to get credible claim or at least a colorable claim that they were retaliated against for reporting harassment because the supervisor ended up finding out about it.

It’s usually best from an attorney-client privilege standpoint, and from a practicality standpoint to keep documents related to investigation separate and out of the usual personnel file.

Restricting access in corporate records management
Restricting access to personnel files is an important consideration because personnel files only need to be accessed by people with a need to know. There’s a very significant danger when you allow access to employee records especially if they include personal information. If you wind up inadvertently causing the disclosure of information like this, it could be detrimental to the employee and also lead to lawsuits against you.

Employee access to personnel files in corporate records management.
Some states will mandate that employees be given access to their personnel files. Don’t just assume that an employee automatically has a right to see his or her personnel file.

Ins some states, employees have very limited rights to see very limited portions of their personnel record. Typically in these states there is no general right to see the personnel file just upon request. So, when you restrict access to personnel files, depending on state law, you typically got a fairly robust ability to keep even the employee himself or herself away from personnel files.

So, these things are there for the company’s information and for the people who have a need to know. And since they do contain sensitive personal information, they should be kept literally under lock and key, or if they’re kept electronically, they definitely need to be very securely password protected.

Edited remarks from the Rapid Learning Institute webinar: “Personnel Document Retention: What to Keep, How to Keep it & Why it Matters” by Matthew Gilley Esq.

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