Here’s What Should Not Go in Personnel Files Printer friendly format

We all have that junk drawer at home. We may even have a junk drawer at the office. The junk drawer is a catchall for things you don’t take the time to find the right place to store.

Junk drawers are fine, as long as you’re able to quickly get your hands on the item you need when you need it.  But there is one scenario in which a catchall space can get you into trouble.
The personnel file is not a catchall for all things related to the employee, even if you can quickly get your hands on what you need when you need it. There are certain things that must not be stored in personnel files. Keeping the wrong things in personnel files could mean you’re violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or putting your organization at risk for litigation. In this article we’ll explore what does not go in the personnel file.
Personal documents
Copies of personal documents, such as a driver’s license, social security card or birth certificate, are not to be kept in personnel files. These documents can identify an employee’s gender, race or age, factors that could be used to determine who recruiters interview or hire. Supervisors, managers and recruiters should not have access to personal documents. These items should be stored in a separate confidential file.
Medical records
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has stringent rules for medical records. Employers who are covered by the ADA must keep these medical records separate from the personnel file. NOLO Law for All explains cases when employee medical records can be shared.
“Medical information may be revealed only to safety and first aid workers, if necessary, to treat the employee or provide for evacuation procedures; to the employee's supervisor, if the employee's disability requires restricted duties or a reasonable accommodation; to government officials as required by law; and to insurance companies that require a medical exam.”
Medical records should be kept in a separate and confidential file labeled “Medical records.”
Like personal documents, photographs of employees identify gender, race and approximate age and should not be kept in the personnel file.
Background checks
Background checks, credit reports, and drug test results cannot be kept in the personnel file. This information needs to be in a separate confidential file or it can be stored with medical records.
Investigations, completed or ongoing, should not be placed in the personnel file. Investigations include employee complaints, attorney recommendations, etc. This information should be stored in a separate file labeled “investigations.”
Form I-9s
Form I9 is a form from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Employers must complete a Form I-9 for all new employees hired after November 6, 1986, to document verification of the identity and employment authorization of each new employee (both citizen and non-citizen) hired to work in the United States. Form I9 does not go in the personnel file. This form should be kept on file separately from the personnel file.
Payroll information
Salary information is typically kept in the personnel file, but you need to keep direct deposit information in separate payroll file. 
Court orders
Court orders such as garnishments, notices, or restraining orders are not to be kept in the personnel file.
The personnel file is not a catchall file. Be clear on what should not be stored in the personnel file and set up separate files for pertinent information that should not be kept in the personnel file. When you do, you’ll sleep better at night knowing you’re following the law and protecting your organization.
Sources cited
“Americans with Disabilities Act: Questions and Answers.” Americans with Disabilities Act. 4 Feb. 2009. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.
Heathfield, Susan M. “What Employers Should Not Keep In Personnel Records.” Money. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.
“How the ADA Protects Your Medical Information at Work.” Arizona Center for Disability Law, 1 Feb. 2011. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.
“Instructions for Employment Eligibility Verification, Form I-9.” Department of Homeland Security. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.
“Keeping Personnel Files and Medical Records Confidential |” Web. 22 Nov. 2015.
Mayhew, Ruth. “Is It Legal to Keep Pictures of Employees in Their HR File?” Small Business. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.
“What Should NOT Be in the Official Personnel File?” What Should NOT Be in the Official Personnel File? Web. 22 Nov. 2015.