To adequately document and ensure consistency of employee personnel records, UW–Madison has created this comprehensive Personnel File (P-file) policy. Further, in June of 2018, the UW System Board of Regents issued a Resolution requiring UW System Institutions to develop or modify certain human resource policies to address sexual harassment allegations and investigations including documentation in employee P-files.
This policy applies to faculty, limited appointees, academic staff and university staff employees and others who have access to and control over employee personnel files and records; and employees who are authorized to access employee personnel files and share information about the contents thereof.
The University of Wisconsin–Madison maintains personnel information in order to have a complete, accurate, and current record of an employee’s job history at the University. A number of state and federal laws also require the maintenance of certain personnel records. This policy identifies the records that are required to be included in employee personnel files, explains who is responsible for maintaining the personnel records and how those records should be maintained, provides examples of records that are not part of the personnel file, addresses different types of personnel files, explains when employee personnel files must be shared with other UW-System institutions and State agencies, discusses employee access to personnel files, and reminds record custodians of their record retention obligations pursuant to the applicable record retention schedules.
Contents of the Personnel File
Below, find a list of records required to be included in an employee’s personnel file. Note, due to employee category (e.g., faculty, academic staff, university staff, limited), not every employee will have all of the same records in their personnel file. If the record listed below for the employee exists, the original or copy of the original record must reside in the employee’s personnel file. Generally, documents should be shared with the employee before being included in the personnel file.
Creation and Maintenance of Personnel Files
UW–Madison employee personnel files shall be created and/or maintained for all UW–Madison employees, including, any individual who holds a faculty, academic staff, university staff, or limited appointment with the University.
UW–Madison employee personnel files shall be maintained by the UW–Madison School/College/Division human resources department or office where the employee works or its appropriate designee. This personnel file, in conjunction with information found in the University’s electronic Human Resources System (HRS), is the official personnel file.
All personnel and employment records, including any electronic and/or paper records, shall be maintained to ensure the security and confidentiality of the records in a filing system that meets applicable record retention schedule requirements and best practices. The campus uses an electronic personnel file system.
Certain items described in Section I. 9. (A-B) of this policy must be added to the personnel file whenever created. Items in I. 9. (A) shall be removed upon conclusion of the investigation or administrative appeal, if the current or former employee is found not to have violated the policy. Any records removed still need to be maintained pursuant to the applicable General Records Schedule absent any authority to destroy them. Documents described in Section I. 9. (A-B) of this policy regarding violations of the UW–Madison sexual violence and sexual harassment policy included in the personnel file cannot be removed except in extraordinary circumstances, and then only upon the review and approval of the UW–Madison Office of Human Resources, the Chancellor or their designee, and the applicable legal counsel.
Official, Duplicate, Shadow, Working and Supervisor Files
The official personnel file or record is the most complete and up-to-date version that will include the records identified in Section A of this policy, whether in electronic and/or paper format, and any related employee information found in the University’s electronic Human Resources System (HRS).
Duplicate or working copies of records described in this policy may be maintained for convenience and/or reference purposes by individuals who have access to and control over personnel file records or their designee(s) for necessary operational purposes. Copies may be retained for as long as needed, but they should not be kept longer than the Records Disposition Authorization (“RDA”) for the official copy of record as specified in the applicable record retention schedule. Do not maintain unnecessary duplicate copies. Do not send copies to storage or retain them for longer than the retention periods specified for the official copy.
If any unique material is present in a file, it is no longer a duplicate or shadow file, but represents another original record and must be maintained for the same period of time as the original record. If a duplicate or shadow file or record exists, dispose of the file or record in accordance with the applicable record retention record schedule and official record series.
Supervisors may maintain their own employee files (working and/or supervisor files) with information they believe is helpful or necessary to manage workload and employees for personnel-related operational purposes. Any supervisor files should be maintained securely and confidentially. Supervisors should be aware that if they share this information with any other person, the material may become subject to Open Records Law requests. While subunits within an employing unit may also wish to retain files of duplicates of personnel records for ease of access, this is not encouraged. If convenience copies are retained, appropriate access to these copies must be provided in response to audit or legal request and per Open Records Law. The supervisor may also maintain personal supervisor notes in the supervisor file, which are not considered to be a personnel record so long as they are prepared by the supervisor for their own use and are not shared with anyone else. While these notes may be protected outside of the personnel record from regular disclosure requirements under Open Records Laws, these notes may still be subject to disclosure at some future point as a result of a future claim, charge, complaint, and/or legal process.
Sharing Personnel Files
UW–Madison, must request the personnel file of any current or former UW System institution or State agency employee upon hire. Upon request of the hiring UW System institution or State agency, UW–Madison must share a copy of the complete personnel file of any current or former UW–Madison employee upon hire. The original personnel file should be maintained according to the applicable Records Schedule.
Access to Personnel Records
Many records in the personnel file may be confidential, may contain Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and/or may be records that are subject to Wis. Stat. § 19.36(10). Some personnel-related records are confidential, such as employee medical records, examination scores and rankings and other evaluation of applicants, dismissals, demotions, and other disciplinary actions, and certain pay survey data identified as confidential in Wis. Stats §230.13.
UW–Madison employees have the right to inspect, upon request, any personnel documents which are used or which have been used in determining that employee’s qualifications for employment, promotion, transfer, additional compensation, termination, or other disciplinary action, and medical records, save for exceptions identified in the statute. Please reference Wis. Stat. § 103.13(5-6) for records that may not be subject to inspection by an employee or an employee’s representative.
If an employee disagrees with any information contained in the personnel records, a removal or correction of that information may be mutually agreed upon by the employer and the employee. If an agreement cannot be reached, the employee may submit a written statement explaining the employee's position. The employer shall attach the employee's statement to the disputed portion of the personnel record. The employee's statement shall be included whenever that disputed portion of the personnel record is released to a 3rd party as long as the disputed record is a part of the file.
Redaction of Sensitive Personally Identifiable Information (PII)
Personally identifiable information (PII) is any data that could potentially identify a specific individual. There are two types of PII: sensitive and non-sensitive. Non-sensitive PII is publicly available and easily accessible information that can be gathered from a variety of sources (e.g., public records, phone books, publicly accessible websites). Sensitive PII is information which, if lost, compromised, or disclosed without authorization, could result in substantial harm, embarrassment, inconvenience, or unfairness to an individual. Sensitive PII includes information such as unique identifiers, financial information, and medical information.
Sensitive PII should not be included in the personnel file. When adding documents to the personnel file, the following information must be redacted:
Other data protected from disclosure by law, contract, or University policy
Additionally, when sending a personnel file to another UW System institution or a state agency, the personnel file must be reviewed and any sensitive PII redacted before the personnel file is shared.
Retention of Personnel Records
The University of Wisconsin System & UW–Madison General Records Schedule, Human Resources and Related Records governs the retention and disposition of the personnel records for all UW System institution employees, including UW–Madison. Under the General Records Schedule – and under Wisconsin law – a UW System institution may not destroy any records that it generates or receives, including employment records, unless destruction of the record is consistent with the General Records Schedule.
Retention periods for official personnel files begin at final separation from UW employment, but emeritus status does not constitute separation for this purpose. Following the appropriate retention periods, employment records, including personnel file records, may be destroyed in accordance with the applicable record retention schedule and best practices related to record disposition and disposal. Note, records may not be destroyed where required to be retained by law or policy including, but not limited to, a pending public records request, lawsuit, audit, or legal hold.
Violations of this policy may result in corrective action ranging from training up to and/or including dismissal.
Note, not all employment records are maintained in an employee’s personnel file. The following records are examples of records that should be maintained in secure, confidential, and separate files outside of the personnel file and with limited or restricted access.
Wis. Stat. § 16.61(2): When retained for “convenience of reference only,” copies are considered non-records.
Wis. Stat. § 103.13, Records open to employee