Personnel Record Confidentiality

Author: Amy Volk | Posted: 2/4/2014
by Kathryn Carlson, KPA, VP of HR Management Products

Personnel files have important legal requirements, allowing you, as the employer, to document employee history, disciplinary actions, and investigations that have been conducted. These files have the ability to protect the dealership in the event of a legal dispute. Because of their significance, and the private information contained within, personnel files must be kept secure at all times. At the same time, they must be reasonably available as many states require that employees be allowed to review the information included in their own files.

Aside from being a legal right, there are other reasons why it is beneficial for employees to have access to their files:

  1. Employees can review their factual information (birth dates, social security numbers, etc.) and confirm this information is correct. 
  2. Allowing employees access to their personnel information creates positive relationships and trust between managers and employees. The employee will realize there is nothing sinister or hidden within their files. 
  3. Allowing employees access will assist in maintaining authentic documentation. It forces managers to properly communicate with their employees, provide constructive feedback, and to keep conjectures to themselves. 

If your dealership(s) is located in a state where it is a legal requirement for employees to have access to their own personnel files, it is wise to create an Employee Records Privacy and Access policy. This will allow employees to understand their rights to review their files, and will also create a clear process that will need to be followed if employees wish to review their files. When creating your personnel file privacy and access policy, keep the following in mind:

  • Spell out who can see the records, including when, where, how, and how often. Make sure the policy is in accordance with your state and federal laws. 
  • Require appointments for employees to view their file. It is important that employees only view their file when you are with them so that they are unable to add anything to or remove anything from the file.
  • Only distribute personnel files to outside parties on a need-to-know basis or once a subpoena is received. 
  • Maintain separate files (not part of the personnel file) for any medical information related to the employee. Keep all I-9 forms together in a separate binder. Maintain a separate file for any investigation and only keep a basic record that an investigation was conducted and include the outcome in the personnel file.
  • If using electronic document storage be sure that roles and permissions for access to information provide the same level of security that have individual paper files provide.

This article is provided by KPA, a recommended partner of your State or National Association providing HR Management software services for Auto, Truck, Heavy Equipment/Agricultural, Motorcycle, and RV Dealers. If you have additional questions, please contact KPA at or 800.853.9659.