Employer Best Practices – Part 2 – Maintaining Personnel Files

Earlier this month, Marcus & Boxerman published the first in a three-part series highlighting employer best practices. In case you missed it, click here to learn about best practices for employee handbooks and uniform enforcement of employment policies. This installment details best practices employers should use in maintaining employee personnel files.

best practices, employee screening, employee personnel files, employment lawKeep personnel files confidential and secure. Employee personnel files contain sensitive information and should be carefully maintained to protect employee privacy, especially as more employers shift to digital recordkeeping. Only management should have access to personnel files, and they must take care that when reviewing the file, its contents are not visible to other employees.

Document the employment screening and hiring process, including the reasons for hiring or not hiring each applicant. Employers should track all job postings and all applicants, which applicants were screened in or out and why, how the employer assessed each candidate, the bases for the hiring decision, and records of all job offers made and accepted.

Conduct regular and informative employee reviews and evaluations. Employers should conduct written performance reviews at least once per year to monitor employee performance, motivate employees, and set new goals for employee performance. Of course, employers should also provide feedback throughout the year as necessary, but as we explained in our last installment in reference to promotion criteria and employment policies, reviews and feedback should be based on objective performance-based criteria. Employers should bear in mind that employee reviews are not simply a reactionary mechanism for correcting employee behavior, but a valuable opportunity to reinforce performance goals and teach employees how they can improve and advance.

Catalog employee performance and behavioral issues. After conducting a thorough investigation of the events giving rise to employee discipline, employers should record their findings on an employee discipline form. Each form should contain the employee’s basic information, the time and date of the incident, a clear and objective description of the facts of the incident leading to discipline, the specific policy or rule that the employee violated, and the action the employer has taken and will take in response. Employers should ensure the employee acknowledges he or she had an opportunity to review the form by having the employee sign it before taking disciplinary action.

Chronicle all instances of employee separation, whether voluntary or involuntary. Employers should conduct exit interviews with all separating employees, regardless of whether the employee resigns or is terminated. Exit interviews often provide employers with important feedback they can translate into an improved work environment, higher employee morale, and increased productivity. Questions should focus on the employee’s experience working for the employer, their relations with management and co-workers, and what areas the employee thinks the employer can improve in. If the employee is resigning, employers should obtain an official letter of resignation. If the employee is being terminated, the employer should document the events giving rise to termination according to the employer’s stated disciplinary procedures.

We’ll wind up our Employer Best Practices Series later this week with a discussion of best practices for common employment compliance issues. For more information on creating and maintaining water-tight employee personnel files, contact us at (312) 216-2720.

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