Employee personnel files contain a wealth of information about the people who are keeping your business running. Documents detailing past work experience, medical information, performance evaluations, and confidential private material are all organized into a series of important files for reference by select individuals. While such information is integral and necessary to the function of a business and enables you to be familiar with various employees, if it ends up in the wrong hands, you could be in a lot of trouble.
Access should be limited to only those who have a valid reason for viewing the files. Failure to put protective measures in place could result in private information making its way into the hands of someone who shouldn’t see it. The outcome could mean a bad reputation for your company or worse, the likelihood of facing lawsuits or other legal action. Here is some basic information about which individuals can have legal and warranted access to employee personnel files.
Human Resource Staff
The human resource department is responsible for overseeing employee relationships, monitoring performance evaluations, and maintaining confidential information related to people within the organization. Certain staff members can have legal access to these files to ensure personal information is kept up to date, critical performance data is filed for reference in hiring decisions, and medical benefit details are in a central location. Data found in personnel files can help human resource professionals to make decisions regarding pay, raises, benefits, and potential promotions or expatriate assignments within the company.
Supervisor or Manager
Immediate supervisors or managers of various departments can also legally access details within personnel files. Often, managers are given special access to make changes or update documents on an as needed basis. This ensures they are able to input information regarding an employee’s performance and job duties.
Giving your employees access to their own personnel files is an excellent decision to make. Restrictions can be put into place to disable editing tools to prevent employees from altering their files in their favor. However, giving employees access to their personal information reduces the possibility of issues arising in the future, such as the notorious “after discovered document.” This happens when an employee is terminated and personnel files are made public to that individual. Depending on the situation and why this individual was fired, he could claim he had never seen certain documents before, and they were created in spite after his termination. Performance evaluations are a major issue when it comes to after discovered documents. Companies that choose to fully disclose all file information to their employees can protect themselves from frustrating claims should a situation ever arise where a terminated individual claims something was created against their knowledge.
Tips for Protecting Confidential Information
Your company’s ability to monitor and protect classified information could make all of the difference in maintaining your reputation, giving your employees peace of mind, and running a trustworthy enterprise. Here are some basic things you can do to make sure personnel information doesn’t get into the wrong hands.
- Separation of medical documents: It is wise to separate non-medical records from the others to keep information organized.
- Treat private information carefully: Confidential information should be locked in a filing cabinet, regulated, and monitored to ensure only qualified personnel have access.
- Updates should be recorded: Any updates made to files by managers, HR staff, or other qualified parties should be recorded with a valid date. This will ensure proper documentation for reference in the future.
Keeping your employees safe and building your reputation as a trustworthy company is due in large part to your ability to keep confidential information private and secure. Understanding who can and cannot have access to employee personnel files is an excellent place to start.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.