The Website and Blog of HR Author and Speaker Lori Kleiman

Are You an Employee File Pack Rat?


Employee files should be retained by all organizations. They are the place where you can keep documents to be used in the future for reference internally, and when there is any kind of legal action regarding the employee. At the same time, it is not necessary to save every scrap of paper that ever had the employees name on it.

While not exhaustive, the list below gives an idea of the documentation we typically see in employee files. Consider your current system and give thought to whether you have a great deal more or less – neither is a great solution!

We have shared some common parts of an employee file below. Addition details can be found in Lori Kleiman’s book: HR You Can Use! Answers to the 5 Issues Keeping Business Owners Up at Night.The supplemental toolkit contains this checklist and more!

  • Job description for the position
  • Application and resume if provided
  • Documentation of reference check
    • If background or credit checks were completed, those should be retained in a separate location
  • Offer of employment
  • IRS Form W-4 and applicable state forms
  • If employee will be driving, copy of drivers license and approval to verify annually
  • Signed acknowledgment of employee handbook
  • Orientation checklist signed by employee
  • Performance evaluations including disciplinary actions taken
    • Dated and signed by company and employee
    • Verbal warnings noted as such
  • Documentation indicating salary or position changes
  • Employee benefit forms
    • Must not contain medical information – if medical information is required retain in separate location
  • Emergency contacts
  • Completion of training programs
  • Proof of any certifications attained
  • Contract, written agreement, receipt, or acknowledgment between the employee and the employer for example:
    • non-compete agreement
    • Confidentiality agreement
    • employment contract
    • agreement relating to a company-provided car
  • Separation information
    • Voluntary – written resignation from employee
    • Involuntary – process and documentation used by company to arrive at decision

It is not necessary to keep a copy of every correspondence relating to employee such as verifications of employment, change of address and update in phone number. The purpose of the file is to retain relevant information to document the relationship between the employee and the organization. Before removing any documentation you currently have, we recommend you consult an attorney to determine if there is a purpose for your organization.

Photo by Takashi Toyooka used under the following license.

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