Required Documents for Personnel Files

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As an employer, you need to be aware of the state and federal laws that stipulate the type of information that should be maintained in personnel files. Some of the required personnel documents include personal contact information for the employee, work status, payroll information and performance information.

Employment Information

Employment information in a personnel file typically comes in the form of the employment application or new hire paperwork. The file may also include a copy of the employment offer letter sent to the employee and a signed receipt from the employee acknowledging that he received a copy of the company’s employee handbook. While the personnel file for an employee must include a date of birth for the purpose of benefits, it is illegal to obtain this information to use in determining whether or not to hire the individual.

Work Status

Work status is the legal documentation that proves the employee is able to work in the United States. As proof of work status, an employee personnel file must include a copy of the employee’s social security card. If the employee is not a citizen of United States, a completed I-9 form (the non-U.S. citizen equivalent to a W-4 form) , a copy of the employee’s passport and a copy of the employee’ work visa should be included in the employee’s personnel file.


Another primary component of a personnel file pertains to payroll. An employer must maintain an up-to-date federal W-4 tax form. Along with the W-4 form, a personnel file can also contain timesheets for the pay periods in which the employee works. If the employee has any money legally garnished from his wages, the court order or copy of the stipulation must also be in the personnel file.

Performance Information

Performance appraisals are another integral part of an employee personnel file. These can include copies of the employee’s professional goals and performance appraisals written by the employee’s supervisor or manager. If appropriate, the personnel file also contains any reprimands or warnings that the employee receives during his time with the company.

State Tax Information

If the state in which you operate your business has state taxes, then you are required to maintain a W-4 form for withholding taxes. Similar to the federal W-4 tax form, the state form should be kept up-to-date and maintained in the employee personnel file as a backup record for proper deductions from the employee’s paycheck and in case of an audit by the IRS or the state tax agency.