Employee History Data Should Be Kept As Part of Document Retention

by on July 2, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Document Retention Should Include History, But Be Careful What You Include

Let’s go to the first category here and talk about employee history. When I talk about employee history, I’m generally referring to the traditional “personnel file” that many of you will keep as part of your document retention either in a paper or in electronic form.

These typically include documents relating to job performance such as promotions, performance appraisals and corrective action write ups. It’s very important that if someone is written up that that needs to make it into HR’s file for the purposes of document retention.

These are typically things to which managers must have access when they’re making ongoing employment decisions. For example, if a manager is going to be trying to decide whether to promote one employee versus another employee, they should be able to go to the personnel file and get a reasonable amount of information that they can use to make that decision.

Now, what you don’t want to be in the personnel file are things that are not job related that might expose the company or the organization to complaints of discrimination.

So what are some of the things that we don’t want to show up in the employee history document retention? Well one thing would be medical history and other documents unrelated to the job. These should be maintained in separate files.

Things that would be inappropriate to use in making subsequent employment decisions would be things like pre-employment reference checks. Candidates’ interview evaluations, credit reports, employee photos, and other EEO data. These items probably shouldn’t be involved in your document retention

Also you should note in this regards that the ADA and the FMLA require that medical records need to be treated confidentially. So, typically, we suggest that any medical history and these types of information should be kept in a separate file that’s not available to supervisors except under some demonstrated need.

This shouldn’t be something that – and it’s not something that you want a supervisor who, for example, is making a promotion decision to be looking at while they’re making that decision.

If someone later comes back with a disability discrimination claim, for example, it’s not going to look good if in deposition testimony, the supervisor admits that they did look through the employee’s file and that the file contained medical information relating to that person’s disability. It’s just not a good fact to have as part of HR’s document retention and it’s one that can be avoided by keeping these documents separate.

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