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Desk Files — Tip of the Week

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I will occasionally be asked whether an employer should allow supervisors and managers to keep so-called “desk files” on employees in addition to the regular personnel files kept by human resources. First, I’m hesitant to discourage supervisors and managers from keeping good records on employee performance or conduct. Second, I don’t think you can prevent this from happening.

What’s important is that HR and supervisors communicate about the records or desk files or personal notes being maintained and that HR have access to them. It may also be a good idea for copies of these desk files to be made part of the official personnel file every so often — once a month, once a quarter, etc.

If you’re an HR professional and you don’t know whether your supervisors are keeping desk files, find out. Coach supervisors on the best way to keep these files and when to transfer them to HR. Periodically review the desk files. And remember that if a discrimination charge or employment lawsuit is filed, the desk files may be just as important as the personnel files.

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For more information on which records must to keep and which ones can you safely throw away listen to my new audio conference on CD: “What to Save, What to Shred: What New Laws Say About Handling Personnel Files.”

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