Category Personnel/Employment
Title What Belongs in the Employee's Personnel File
Preview What Belongs in the Employee's Personnel File

What Belongs on the Employee's Personnel File?
by Thomas J. Cathey, EdD

As a school administrator for many years, I only had one file for each employee. It contained everything about that employee—job application, evaluations, financial forms, medical information, insurance forms, and I-9. The personnel file of many long-time employees just grew to be full!

Today, with a number of federal and state laws regarding privacy and such, Christian schools should keep separate files on employees. Employee files can continue to be paper files, or they can be kept electronically. However, you need to keep at least three separate files on employees.

1.  The first should just be the personnel file. In that file would be the following:

  • Job application
  • Transcripts
  • Handbook acknowledgment form
  • Official actions by school: commendation, reprimand, and so on
  • Employee response to official action
  • Formal reviews
  • Employment contract or letter of employee acknowledgment of at-will employment
  • Results of background screening
  • Copies of personnel change form showing start date, end date, pay changes, and termination information
  • Letter of resignation
  • Formal exit interview

This file would be viewed by the head of school and principals and possibly department heads.

2.  The next separate file should be the employee payroll file. That file would contain the following:

  • W-4 documents
  • Flex-spending enrollment form
  • 403(b) enrollment form
  • Official noticed to the named employee for benefits and so on
  • Time sheets
  • Direct deposit form
  • Personnel change information showing start date, end date, pay changes, address changes, and so on

This file would be kept confidential, and it would only be reviewed by those handling payroll or finance. It is important to keep this file protected, especially since this is where identity theft can occur.

3.  The third separate file should be the employee medical file. This file would contain the following:

  • Copies of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) official notices
  • Health insurance application form
  • Life insurance application form
  • Request for medical leave of absence regardless of reason
  • Personal accident reports
  • Workers' compensation report of injury or illness
  • OSHA injury and illness reports
  • Any other form or document that contains private medical information for a specific employee.

Because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and other laws, this file must be kept secure and must only be reviewed by those on a need-to-know basis.

I would recommend one other separate file for employees. This would be the I-9 file. In this file, the school would put every employee's I-9 form and copies of all documentation. This file would contain each employee in alphabetical order. Over the past several years, the federal government has increased the number of I-9 audits throughout the country. Christian schools are not immune to one of these audits. As a U.S. employer, every school is required to have an I-9 on file for every employee that he or she is authorized to work in the United States. There are large fines for those that are not in compliance. The reason for one file would be the ease of being able to hand an auditor one file with everyone's I-9 form in it. This would prevent you from searching if an auditor can and asked. It would also keep auditors from seeing anything in personnel files, except the I-9, which is what they are there for.

Some Other Helpful Hints

  1. Know how long you should keep each employee record or document. ACSI has an article on document retention. It is located at
  2. Create a checklist of everything you need to have a record of for each file. This could also have dates of how long you should keep each document.
  3. Be sure and keep all employee files confidential. Make sure everyone knows who should have access to certain files. This will protect the employee and protect the school from legal action.

LLU 23.3

Notice: This article is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It has been provided to member schools with the understanding that ACSI is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, tax, or other professional services. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. Laws vary by jurisdiction, and the specific application of laws to particular facts requires the advice of an attorney.

Association of Christian Schools International
731 Chapel Hills Drive
Colorado Springs, CO 80920
Phone: 719.528.6906

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