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Data-Enhanced Hiring : What Permanent Records Belong in Your Personnel Files?

While you are hiring employees, you create lots of digital and on-paper records for each of them. And after you hire them, their files begin to swell with all kinds of documents and records – enrollment forms for medical plans, documentation of job reviews, sick leave they have taken, and lots more.

But have you stopped to think that certain pieces of information that you store can harm you and your organization?

How? Here are a few scenarios . . .

  • In a cover letter, a job applicant you didn’t hire mentioned his strong religious beliefs. You informed him that he would not receive an offer of employment from you. But a month later, he called your personnel office and accused you of discriminating against him because of his faith. If you still had his original cover letter on file, would that increase your legal risk?
  • You terminated an employee for poor performance. Several months before you hired him, he married another man. Your company was able to have that spouse added to the company health plan, but it was a complicated process that generated a lot of paperwork, which is now sitting in your files. If the worker you fired decides to claim that your company discriminated against him and his spouse, could the presence of those documents in your files show that you did not discriminate against him and his family? Would it be a good thing if you kept those records on file? And how long should you keep them?
  • In job applications, you ask all applicants whether they can work legally in the U.S. You need to keep copies of those records, so you can document that you are in compliance with the law. But since the immigrations status of your employees tends to change – some become U.S. citizens, for example – is it your responsibility to monitor and update their immigration records?

Hiring Is All about Data, But . . .

Our post today is only intended to get you thinking about the records that you decide to keep, or not keep, in your personnel files. To make the best decisions, be sure to review your systems with your company’s lawyers. And make sure the head of your HR department is aware of the latest HR protocols and protections.

Here are some general precautions you might want to think about . . .

  • Permission to access electronic records – Your system should have a well-planned set of protections and permissions built in. Only certain members of your company, for example, should be able to access company HR files. So your database of hiring and personnel records should permit access to the appropriate people, not to everyone.
  • Disposal of applicant’s resumes, applications, letters of interest, etc. – How long should you keep the materials of applicants who you did not hire? In general, disposing quickly of unneeded documents and files is the safest policy. Remember that if people apply for employment a second or third time, you can simply ask them to resubmit their materials to you.
  • Organizational “buckets” – An employee’s immigration records should be kept in a special immigration file (either digital or on paper), not intermixed with his or her other personnel documents. Payroll, noncompete agreements, benefits enrollment forms and other medium-security documents can be stored in his or her general personnel files. But documents showing more sensitive data that pertains to issues such as disabilities or gender identities, should be kept in a separate, protected confidential file.
  • Computer security safeguards – You protect your client and customer data. Remember that it is just as important to protect all the computerized data you maintain about your current and former employees.

Audit Files and Discard Inappropriate Materials

Even in companies where members of a hiring team are committed to fair hiring practices, documents with inappropriate comments or undertones have a way of ending up in the files. A department manager meets with an applicant and files a comment that calls the applicant “a very capable girl” or “a bright young transgender man.” So be vigilant enough to review your records and discard anything that is inappropriate.

Using Comeet to manage your hiring process makes it easier to monitor all the records you generate when hiring, because everything flows into your records electronically through one portal, not on bits and slips of paper that come from everywhere and end up in hanging files that no one ever looks at . . . until a problem arises.

Are you looking to start your hiring process today? Comeet can help. Check out our plan options to learn more about how we can redefine the way you recruit new talent.

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Barry Lenson

Barry Lenson

Barry Lenson has spent more than 25 years writing blogs, website copy, and books on business, education, healthcare, and the arts. He has written and co-authored more than a dozen books, including the Amazon.com bestseller Good Stress, Bad Stress. Barry earned degrees from McGill and Yale.

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