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Employee Personnel Files

Do we need to separate the benefits application forms, i.e. medical/dental/life application forms, from the personnel file? Does this information need to be retained in a separate medical file? Or can I put it in a segregated section of the personnel file?

There are several federal laws that require employers to protect the privacy of employees’ personal health information including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).

In general, yes, all medical/insurance records should be kept separate from employees’ personnel files. These records include enrollment forms, claims, doctors’ notes, questionnaires, leave of absence records, and accommodation information.

Basic benefit information such as enrollment forms or doctor’s notes for absences unrelated to the FMLA or ADA may be included in a segregated section within the personnel file. The section should always have a cover page on top for an added level of privacy. The cover page can simply state “Benefits-Confidential” or something similar. Because of the confidentiality of the information, the records must be private from individuals that may have access to general employee information (i.e. supervisors/managers).

Some employers opt to keep benefits information completely separate from the personnel file to avoid any privacy issues. But, as long as the segregated section has a cover page and is clearly marked confidential; and appropriate procedures are in place to ensure the security of the files (i.e. locked cabinet/office, supervising reviews of files) then having a segregated section within the employee file is acceptable.

Paperwork that contains more detailed health information such as that required for leave under the FMLA or for an accommodation under the ADA must be kept in a completely separate file.


This entry was posted on Friday, December 23rd, 2016 at 8:55 pm and is filed under
Human Resources Management.
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