What to keep in employee personnel files

No one enjoys dealing with paperwork, but the time spent to create and maintain personnel files will pay off over time. A personnel file that is created and maintained over time will give you all of the important documents about an employee in one place making it each to make decisions regarding promotions and terminations. The personnel file should be start on the date of hire.

In the worst-case scenario, a personnel file may turn into evidence in a lawsuit by a former employee. You need to make sure that it contains all information regarding evaluations, raises, commendations, and disciplinary issues. This information will be essential in defending your company in case of a lawsuit.

Employee Benefits

What to keep in a personnel file:

  • Job description
  • Job application and/or resume
  • Offer of employment
  • IRS Form W-4
  • Signed acknowledgement of employee handbook
  • Performance evaluations
  • All raises, promotions and commendations
  • Forms relating to employee benefits
  • Complaints from customers and/or coworkers
  • Warnings or other disciplinary actions
  • Documents relating to the employees departure from the company

You should review all personnel files on an annual basis to ensure that all documents are filed and up to date.

The personnel file should not become the place that you put all documents regarding the employees. You can store personnel files electronically. There are a couple items that should always be left out of the file. Do not put any medical records into the personnel file. All Form I-9s should be kept in on file in case the USCIS requests access to the forms.

The personnel file needs to contain job-related documents but don’t go overboard. Entries that do not directly relate to an employee’s job performance and qualifications can come back and hurt you. In most states employees have the right to review their file. Rule of thumb – don’t put anything in the file that you wouldn’t want a jury to see.


If you have any questions about creating personnel files, please let us know.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail.