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HR Best Practices Newsletter

November 14, 2017

Question: May benefit enrollment documents be placed in the employee’s personnel files or should they be kept separate?

Answer: Due to privacy concerns, it is considered a best practice to keep all benefit documents in a separate file and location from personnel records. Benefit forms contain personal confidential information, including dependent information, that requires a high level of security. Personnel files of all types should be kept in a locked file, ideally in a secure location.

We recommend keeping separate files as follows:

  • Personnel file — employment application, resume, job description, offer letter, status change forms, acknowledgement of company handbook, code of conduct and other policies, emergency contacts, address change forms, disciplinary action, evaluations, certifications, course completions, and accommodations.
  • Benefits file — enrollment/waiver forms, enrollment change forms, medical forms.
  • Reference checks and pre-employment screening — reference checks, verifications of employment requests, drug tests and background checks.
  • Payroll file— compensation changes, W-4 and state tax withholding forms, direct deposit forms.

In addition, you may need to create additional files and keep them separate from personnel, payroll, and benefits files. These may include:

  • Wage garnishment file
  • FMLA file and/or ADA accommodations file
  • Investigation file

Finally, I-9 forms can be handled a little differently. We recommend keeping all active I-9 forms in a binder if your company size can accommodate that or in a separate file drawer or cabinet away from personnel files. Separately, maintain a binder (or separate file drawer) of I-9 forms for employees who are no longer with your company. In the event of an audit by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), you can quickly turn over these materials for review, preventing auditors’ access to personnel files or other sensitive information.

“Paper Cuts Don’t Scare Me” and Other HR Mantras

One of the inconvenient truths about HR is that, even in this modern age, there is a lot of paperwork. And a lot of rules about how long employers need to retain said paperwork. Let’s break down some of the most common records and how long you need to keep fighting the paper cut monster with each based on federal rules for most employers.

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When You Don’t Train Your Managers on the FMLA, You’re Begging for This Kind of Smackdown

When a manager learns that one of his employees is in the hospital for several days, that’s almost always enough information for the employer to have an inkling that the employee may need FMLA leave. But one employer didn’t think so. And the penalty for its mistake was costly.

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ADA Lawsuit: Can You Force an Unstable Employee to See a Doctor?

If you have reason to believe that an employee who has suddenly started showing increasingly erratic behavior is struggling to do their job and negatively impacting her co-workers, what can you do?

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Effective Mentor Programs: Recruiting and Training Mentors

The benefits of a mentoring program include improved employee engagement and retention, a more diverse workforce, reduced conflict, improved productivity and alignment with business strategy. Here are some ideas for how you can find and train great mentors in your business.

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This information is provided as a service to our clients. It is designed to provide general information on the topics covered. It is not intended to be a comprehensive summary of recent developments in the law, treat exhaustively the subjects covered, provide legal advice, or render a legal opinion. Ardent Solutions is not a legal firm and not responsible for any legal advice. To fully understand how this or any legal or compliance information affects your unique situation, you should check with a qualified attorney. Should you wish to consult with our attorney partners to understand how this information affects you, please contact us.


At Ardent Solutions, we’re passionate about making your business better.