What to do with the ‘Informal’ personnel files our managers keep

Q. In addition to the official personnel files we keep in HR, our supervisors keep informal or working files. Is this allowed? Does this practice present any concerns?

A. This is a common practice. Often, these files contain very helpful information—documentation of warnings, counseling sessions and so forth. Therefore, if you are defending an employee claim, be sure to determine whether managers have been keeping another file.

Also, sound document-retention practices require employers to protect such information from being destroyed. Carefully review union information requests, subpoenas or other document requests to see if they cover such “informal” files.

Finally, train supervisors on the do’s and don’ts of document preparation and retention. Make sure they understand that what they may believe are private notes or files—for their use and eyes only—may one day become part of a legal proceeding.