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Limit Employee Access to Personnel Files

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in Leaders & Managers,Office Management,Performance Reviews,Records Retention

Q. I keep on file each employee's application, résumé, performance evaluations and any other praise or disciplinary records. Do I need to provide my employees with access to their files? And, if so, do I have to show them everything? S.K., New Hampshire

A. Keeping a file on each employee is a good way to keep your information organized and current. These files often contain information that is highly personal, so access should be restricted to those individuals who have a legitimate business reason for seeing them.

State laws often address whether employees must be given access to their personnel files. A number of states mandate exactly what information must be made available to the employee. In a state like yours, which has no legislation on this topic, many employers still choose to make personnel records available to their employees. If you choose such a policy, I suggest limiting employees' rights.

For example, permit only current employees to have access to their records; require that they obtain access by submitting a written request; allow the employee to view the file only in the presence of a manager; prohibit the employee from making copies of the materials; and permit employees to provide a written response to anything contained in the file with which they disagree.

Finally, include in your policy a provision that the company reserves the right to keep certain information confidential.

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