Electronic Personnel Files (ePersonnel File)

Topics Covered here:

  1. Guidelines and Best Practices for Personnel Files (Paper and Electronic)
    1. General Information
    2. Access
    3. Employee Transfer/Termination
    4. Retention/Return of Employees
    5. Performance Reviews
  2. Other Types of Files Maintain in the Employing Department
    1. Grievance File
    2. Recruitment File
    3. Medical File
    4. Management/Supervisor Notes File
  3. Frequently Asked Questions

I. Guidelines and Best Practices for Personnel Files (Paper & Electronic)

This document provides guidelines, best practices, and frequently asked questions regarding personnel files, whether in paper or electronic format (i.e., ePersonnel, shared drive, etc.) for our campus. It applies to all employees regardless of coverage by a collective bargaining agreement. The guidelines are based on the premise that, since The University of Iowa is the single employing entity, the personnel file is the property of the University of Iowa rather than the employing department. Follow the link for the UI Health Care Personnel File policy. (Only accessible to UI Health Care).

A. General Information

Employing units shall maintain a personnel file, whether in paper or electronic format, for each employee containing pertinent information regarding the employment relationship with the University (i.e., offer letters, education/training records, letters of recognition and/or commendation, and any disciplinary record).

With the implementation of the electronic personnel file, which can be accessed through Employee Self-Service, it is strongly recommended that the employing unit utilize the electronic personnel (ePersonnel) file for all new staff members and current staff members going forward. If a paper personnel file exists for an employee, it is also recommended that the employing unit scan and upload contents from the paper file to the ePersonnel file, but it is not required. The most significant advantage to utilizing ePersonnel files is that all information and documents are generally available 24 hours a day through the secured Employee Self Service portal for both the employee and management.

Personnel files are confidential. The information contained within the file shall be consistent with state and federal laws and regulations, University policies, and any collective bargaining agreement, as applicable. It is a best practice to utilize the individual folders within the personnel file to organize documents (such as: Development/Education/Training, Employment Documentation, Performance, Immigration, and Non-Health Related Leave). For more information regarding access, retention, and which documents are permitted or not permitted in the personnel file go to Guidelines for Use, Access, & Retention of Personnel, Medical, and Supervisor Files. For supporting immigration documents, including what documents are permitted in the personnel file by valid immigration type can be found here.

B. Access

The University Operations Manual III-7, outlines the governing principles regarding access to an employees’ personnel file. This access includes the personnel and medical files, but not the supervisory notes.

Access to the ePersonnel file is driven by position management and institutional roles.Access is limited to administrative supervisors or others with administrative responsibility, persons responsible for maintenance of the files, or others granted access by University policy or contractual requirements. In addition to the employee, the other people who have access to your ePersonnel file are: the administrative supervisor, the supervisor’s supervisor and the HR Rep. More information regarding access can also be found here.

Access to paper personnel files is governed by the following:

Iowa Code

University of Iowa Operations Manual

AFSCME Contract (p. 19)

SEIU Contract (Article XXIV, Section 2)

C. Employee Transfer/Termination

When an employee transfers between departments at the University of Iowa (with the exception of faculty) both the personnel and medical file should follow the employee.The only exception is if there is any information related to a disability (or related accommodation) covered under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).

For the paper file, the responsibility for transferring the file for an employee lies with the former employing department’s Human Resource representative.The original file may be transferred via campus mail (marked CONFIDENTIAL) to the designated Human Resource representative for the receiving department or division.The former department should not maintain a copy of the former employee’s file.It is strongly recommended that prior to the transfer of the employee, the departmental Human Resource Representative review the contents of the personnel file, scan and upload the contents into the ePersonnel file.

For the medical file, any information related to a disability and related accommodations covered under the ADA should not be transferred to the new employing unit. This includes Worker's Compensation claims that may result in coverage under the ADA, and Leaves of Absences granted for purposes of an ADA accommodation. The employee will need to initiate a new request for accommodation for their new position, if needed. The ADA segment of the medical file should be transferred to Faculty and Staff Disability Services at 121 University Services Building. For employees in UI Healthcare, the ADA segment of the personnel file should be transferred to the Leave and Disability Administrative office at C109-E General Hospital.

The supervisor also may have kept notes in a management/supervisor file. This file should not be transferred with the personnel file.

Any grievance and/or recruitment files related to the transferring employee also should not be transferred with the personnel file. Those files should continue to be retained in the former department.

D. Retention/Return of Employees

For terminated employees, the Senior HR Leader and HR Rep of the former employing department will have access to the employee’s ePersonnel file for up to five years from the employee’s termination date. Paper files should be maintained for five years after termination in the last employing department. After five years they can be properly discarded with the exception of any ADA files within the Medical file.These files should be transferred to Faculty and Staff Disability Services at 121 University Services Building or for employees in UI Health Care to the Leave and Disability Administrative office at C109-E General Hospital.

If the employee returns within five years of their termination date, the hiring department will be granted access to the previous ePersonnel file. If the return date is after the five-year period, no previous information/documentation will be accessible. Paper files should be requested by the hiring department from the last employing department and sent to the hiring department.

Questions about these guidelines and best practices should be addressed to departmental Human Resource representatives, University Human Resources Administrative Services (335-3558) or University Employee and Labor Relations (335-0052), elr-help@uiowa.edu.

E. Performance Reviews

Performance review documentation is available in various locations. For most employee groups, it is filed in the personnel file (either paper or electronic).

II. Other Types of Files Maintained in the Employing Department

A. Grievance File

Grievance materials, including documents related to discrimination or sexual harassment complaints, should be maintained in a separate file, not within the personnel file.

B. Recruitment File

Application materials, including letters of recommendation supporting the staff member's original hire should be held in the position recruitment file, not within the employee's personnel file. The department may opt to include some documents, such as a resume or curriculum vitae, in the ePersonnel file also. 

C. Medical File

A separate medical file should be maintained for information related to the employee’s health including: Worker's Compensation First Report of Injury, correspondence regarding Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or non-FMLA medical leaves, release to return to work, etc. Any designation of the employee as protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or any other forms/correspondence related to personnel actions covered by these acts or relating to accommodations should be maintained in a separate file within the medical file. The ADA requires this ADA related medical file must be kept separate in the medical file and apart from the location of other personnel files. Access is limited to the supervisor and HR Rep involved in the implementation of workplace accommodations.

D. Management/Supervisor Notes File

A separate management/supervisor file should be maintained by the direct supervisor for information related to day-to-day performance achievements or concerns. This is also the location for documentation regarding coaching or counseling of the employee or letters clarifying expectations. This file should serve as a supervisor resource when preparing for the annual performance evaluation discussion or other performance conversations with the employee.

III. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Q1: What documents are automatically inserted in the ePersonnel file from the transaction system?

A1: The following documents, if included as an attachment on a transaction (appointment, change of status) are automatically inserted in the ePesonnel file via the transaction system:

  • Offer Letter
  • UI Physician Contract
  • Resume
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Documentation of Career Development
  • Letter of Resignation
  • Performance Review Report
  • Evaluation Documents

Q2: Who can add documents to an ePersonnel file?

A2: Anyone who has access to the transaction system can upload documents to the ePersonnel file. The documents must then be reviewed and approved by the Human Resources representative before they will appear in the ePersonnel file.

Q3: How is the effective and end date used?

A3: The effective date is typically the date the document is inserted or the date of the document being attached. If a future date is used, the document will not be visible in the ePersonnel file until that future date.

The end date should not be utilized except for documents that expire and would normally be removed from a paper file. For example, written reprimands for merit employees covered by the AFSCME contract are to be removed in certain conditions after a specified time frame (provided no further discipline occurs within a year from the date of issue). Generally, it is recommended the end date NOT be used.

Q4: Are the document categories in the ePersonnel the same for all employee types?

Q4: No, the document category and subcategories are different based on employee type. A listing of the document categories and subcategories by employee type can be found here. (see pages 8-14 below for the content)

Q5: I see the document title field is optional, why?

A5: If the file name is descriptive and appropriate it is not necessary to use a document title. If the file name is not descriptive enough it would be appropriate to enter a document title. The document title is what will be displayed in the ePersonnel file instead of the file name.

Q6: Can I grant electronic access to my ePersonnel file to anyone else?

A6: No. This type of electronic sharing is not available at this time. To share documents from your own personnel file, you would need to either print them from ePersonnel or request a copy from your paper personnel file.

Q7: Can I grant access to my ePersonnel file to someone outside the University (e.g. Attorney or Union Representative)?

A7: No. This type of electronic sharing is not available at this time. You may share a hard copy of your own personnel file. To share documents from your own personnel file, you would need to either print them from ePersonnel or request a copy from your paper personnel file.

Q8: If I apply for a different position at the University of Iowa, can a hiring department access my personnel file (paper or electronic) and/or my performance reviews during the interview process?

A8: Access to personnel files is prohibited by the hiring department however, hiring managers are strongly encouraged to check references on internal applicants. For best practices for checking references on current or former employees go here.