Creating & Maintaining Personnel Files

All employers with 20 or more employees are required by Massachusetts law to maintain personnel files. Even smaller employers are strongly encouraged to maintain files in order to have proper employment documentation for each employee. Here is some of what the law requires:

Information contained within the personnel file must be maintained for three years following the employee’s separation from employment.

The file should contain the employee information relative to the employee’s hire, such as performance evaluations, waivers or releases and, if applicable, termination documents.

A recent change in the law now requires employers to notify an employee within 10 days whenever any negative information is placed in his or her file that “is, has been, or may be used” to negatively affect an employee’s qualification for employment, promotion, transfer, additional compensation or disciplinary action.

If there is a disagreement with any of the information the employer has placed in a personnel file, removal or correction of the information may be mutually agreed upon by the employer and the employee. If the parties are unable to agree to remove or correct the file, the employee must be allowed to submit a statement explaining his or her position, which then becomes a part of the person’s personnel record.

I-9 documents are not kept in the individual personnel files. All employers should maintain one I-9 file in a secure location.

Employers may not keep any medical notes or information in the personnel file. All such notes and physician’s letters must be kept in a separate file for each employee. Be sure to safeguard the privacy of such information.

Upon written request, employees are also entitled to review their personnel files. Employers must provide access to the file during normal business hours within five days of the request. If you have received a written request from a former employee, you are required to send a copy of the file within five days of the request.

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