Keeping Employee Files: A Checklist

by Tessa Doyle

Keeping track of employee documentation can be tedious for employers, but it's a necessary step and can be especially helpful in a variety of situations. Various federal and state laws require employers to keep and maintain certain employee records, and if there is an employee-related issue, information in a personnel file may help establish an employer’s claim or defense in employment litigation.

But the big question is: what kind of documentation should employers file away? In comes our personnel file checklist. Below is our recommendation for what documents you should keep in personnel files and those you should keep separately.

Employee personnel files should include:

  • Hiring information, such as application, job description, resume, transcripts, degrees, letters of reference, offer letters, etc.
  • Training completions or certifications
  • Written evaluations or performance reviews
  • Disciplinary actions, including attendance warnings or performance improvement plans
  • Employee handbook acknowledgment of receipt and other consent forms

The following documents should be kept separately:

  • W-4 forms (for audit purposes)
  • I-9 forms (for audit purposes)
  • Benefit forms
  • Medical information (required to be kept separate under the Americans with Disabilities Act “ADA”), such as request for medical leaves, accommodations under the ADA, worker’s compensation claims, doctor’s notes, etc.
  • Drug test and background check results
  • Investigation notes and reports

State law dictates employees’ rights to access personnel files for private employers. Since Indiana has no law, private employers have discretion in creating a policy or standard.

Have questions about maintaining or allowing access to personnel files? Give us a call at (765) 423.700 or send us an email at