What is a personnel file?
A “personnel file” is any employment-related or personal information gathered by an employer. This includes material related to an employee’s application and selection for employment as well as information regarding performance, compensation, home address, medical history and other identifying data. Information can be a part of the “personnel file” even if it is not included in the supervisor’s file folder labeled “personnel file.” It is the content of the information, not the form or location that matters for determining the scope of the file.
Is my personnel file confidential?
Yes. Personnel file information is confidential. It is not public record. Any University official who wrongly divulges information from an employee’s file or one who examines information in that file without authority is guilty of a crime.
Is any employment-related or personal information releasable to the public?
Yes. Despite personnel file confidentiality, the following information can be released to the public:
- Date of original employment or appointment to State service.
- Terms of any employment contract by which the employee is employed whether written or oral, past and current, to the extent that the employing agency has the written contract or a record of the oral contract in its possession.
- Current position.
- Current salary (“salary” for purposes of personnel file information available to the public includes pay, benefits, incentives, bonuses, and deferred and all other forms of compensation paid by the employing entity).
- Date and amount of each increase or decrease in salary with that department, agency, institution, commission, or bureau.
- Date and type of each promotion, demotion, transfer, suspension, separation, or other change in position classification with that department, agency, institution, commission or bureau.
- Date and general description of the reasons for each promotion with that department, agency, institution, commission or bureau.
- Date and type of each dismissal, suspension, or demotion for disciplinary reasons taken by the department, agency, institution, commission, or bureau. If the disciplinary action was a dismissal, a copy of the written notice of the final decision of the head of the department setting forth the specific acts or omissions that are the basis of the dismissal.
- The office or station to which the employee is currently assigned.
What should I do if I am asked to release personnel file information?
Any employee that receives a request for personnel file information, including information that is available to the public, should always refer the request to the Office of General Counsel. OGC will assist you in determining what information, if any, can be released. If personnel file information is released to anyone other than the employee to whom it pertains, a supervisor must create a log that tracks the disclosure. The log must include the following information, correlating with each request to view personnel file information: the name of employee, the information disclosed, the information requested, and the name and address of the person to whom the disclosure is made. This requirement does not apply to disclosures related to a credit check. Upon request, the log of disclosures shall be made available to the employee to whom it pertains.
What types of documents are found in a personnel file?
Personnel files may include many different types of documents. Common examples include an employee’s job application, resume, offer and acceptance letters, and performance reviews. However, documents such as notifications of salary adjustments, employment work plans and tenure clock extension paperwork may also be considered personnel file documents. Please contact OGC if you have questions about personnel file documents.
Who may review or access non-public personnel file information?
Only certain individuals may review or access the non-public information contained in an employee’s personnel file. They include:
- The employee himself/herself (except that the employee may not look at pre-employment letters of reference or certain medical information) or the employee’s properly authorized agent.
- The employee’s supervisors.
- Members of the General Assembly under certain circumstances.
- Anyone with a court order that allows them access to the files.
- An official of the state or federal government as long as (1) the employee’s supervisor decides to allow access, and (2) the official’s purpose is not to assist a criminal prosecution of tax investigation.
As a supervisor, how should I manage my subordinates’ personnel files?
Supervisors (including deans and department heads) should secure personnel files so that only authorized access is permitted. Personnel files should be maintained in one location unless the supervisor chooses to maintain personnel file documents in various locations. If files are maintained in various locations, a directory of the various categories of required personnel files should be maintained to facilitate easy and quick access to the files. Hard copies of personnel files should be stored in a secure and locked file cabinet in a secure location with proper access restrictions.
Supervisors who elect to store personnel files electronically should ensure that the files should be maintained with appropriate network security, proper access restrictions, and regular data backup. Electronic personnel file information made available to authorized committees for purposes of performance review, or to the employee, should be in a format that prohibits unauthorized modification. It is expected that the supervisor (or designee) will be responsible for determining appropriate categories and security levels for electronic folders containing personnel files and for creating new folders as necessary to ensure that only authorized individuals have access to the files.
How should an employee be provided access to their personnel file?
A non-faculty employee who would like to review her personnel file should submit a request to her supervisor or to the Director, Human Resources Information Management (HRIM). Requests from faculty members should be directed to the faculty member’s department head. When an employee requests to view her personnel file, she should specify whether she would like to review only the information maintained by the supervisor or her entire personnel file stored throughout the University, and should specify the types of documents sought. She should also specify whether she would like to simply review the documents or would like a copy of the documents. The University will provide one copy to an employee free of charge.
How do I transfer or dispose of a personnel file?
An employee’s personnel file must be maintained in the employing department or, in the case of a faculty member, the academic department in which the faculty member’s appointment resides. The department should maintain a personnel file for each employee so long as the employee works in the department.
At the time of an employee’s separation from service, the employee’s personnel file becomes inactive. The employee’s supervisor should then transfer the personnel file to Human Resources for retention and disposition in accordance with the University’s Records Retention and Disposition Schedule. If the employee transfers to another department or college, the supervisor should transfer the personnel file to the new department.
What if releasing publicly-available personnel file information or other public records would pose a threat to employee safety?
In limited circumstances where there could be a threat to employees, including a threat of harassment, the University may choose to keep otherwise publicly-available information confidential. If you believe that releasing public information about an employee might create a threatening situation, always contact the OGC to discuss the matter.
How does an employee seek removal of inaccurate or misleading information from their personnel file?
An employee, former employee, or applicant has the right to seek removal of information in his personnel file that he believes to be inaccurate or misleading. If the information is not removed, the employee may file a grievance under the applicable University grievance procedure, asking for removal. If unsuccessful, the employee may place a statement in his file regarding the material he believes to be inaccurate or misleading.
Want to learn more?
N.C.G.S. § 126 et. seq. (Personnel File Confidentiality and Release)
NCSU Reg 01.25.12 (University Records Retention and Disposition)
NCSU Reg 05.00.03 (Employees Subject to the State Human Resources Act)
NCSU Reg 05.25.04 (Faculty Grievance and Non-Reappointment Review