When Supervisors Keep ‘Unofficial’ Personnel Files

Q Some of our managers keep personnel files that they don’t share with HR. Basically, these are “journals” about their employees. Is that OK, or should everything be kept in a centralized personnel file?

A It is only natural for supervisors to want to keep their own “personnel” files. However, the fact that you, as the HR manager, do not know what is in those supervisor files is a recipe for disaster. In many cases, supervisors’ files are liability hazards. For example, your supervisors may be asking about employees’ disabilities in connection with leave requests or making unlawful inquiries regarding employees’ protected concerted activities. You’d never know they were doing this if you never saw their files.

It is absolutely essential that a copy of all personnel-related documentation be included in a centralized personnel file.