Employee Records

Applies to: All faculty, staff, and student workers employed by University of Southern California and its subsidiaries including Keck Medicine of USC (“USC employees”). This policy continues to apply to individuals on sabbatical, other leaves or while visiting other institutions.

Issued: February 25, 2019
Last Revised: June 12, 2023
Last Reviewed: June 12, 2023

2. Policy Purpose

The University maintains a personnel file for each employee to ensure a complete, accurate and current record of documents related to the job, salary, and employment status of an employee. The University maintains other employment-related records separate from the employee personnel file in accordance with the law, including payroll records.

The University has custody over the employee’s personnel file, payroll records, and other employment-related documents. Confidentiality is strictly maintained in keeping with University policy and the law. The practice of the University is not to release this information except as permitted by law.

3. Scope and Application

This policy applies to all employees. Any current and former employee (or a representative) has the right to inspect and receive a copy of the personnel files and records that relate to the employee’s performance or to any grievance concerning the employee. A request for employee records by a former employee is limited to only one request per year. If a representative is requesting an employee’s records, the representative must provide written verification of the employee’s or former employee’s authorization to obtain such records.  To preserve privacy, USC may make redactions, including redacting the name of other employees identified in the records and redacting the last four digits of Social Security Numbers, prior to making the requested records available for inspection.

In the event of a discrepancy between this policy and a collective bargaining agreement, the terms of the collective bargaining agreement will govern.

4. Definitions

Personnel FilesGenerally, the application for employment, general employment history, and records which are used or have been used to determine an employee’s qualifications for promotion, compensation, termination, or disciplinary action.
Payroll RecordsRecords that pertain to the payment of an employee’s wages.  They may include tax withholding forms, time and attendance records, benefits and deductions and other payroll records (pay rate, overtime earnings, bonus pay, pay stubs, raise documentation, payroll history, etc.).

5. Policy Details

Responsibility for Maintaining Personnel Files

The official personnel file for an employee is maintained by the employee’s Human Resources department. The department human resources partner or their designee (custodian of records) is responsible for monitoring and maintaining the contents of the personnel files. All employee personnel records must be electronically maintained in Workday or an officially approved electronic system. Managers are not allowed to maintain shadow or duplicate personnel files or “desk files” on employees. Faculty academic career records are maintained and stored in officially approved electronic systems as determined by the Provost.

Official Personnel File Contents

Personnel files must contain only that information which is directly related to the employee’s job duties, salary, performance and general employment history. Information and documents that may be included in a personnel file:

  • Applications, resumes and verification of degree
  • Job descriptions (including Job Inquiry Questionnaire and Addendum)
  • Records notifying an employee of job offers, promotion, demotion, transfer, reorganization and layoff
  • Pay/compensation information and merit cycle notifications
  • Leave of absence documentation other than medical leave
  • Attendance records
  • Written notices related to a change in an employee’s work schedule or percentage effort
  • The record of an employee’s remote work arrangement, if any
  • Education and training records
  • Records relating to other employment requirements (including policy acknowledgments, agreements and union membership documents)
  • Awards and letters of recognition
  • Warnings, counseling, disciplinary notices, corrective action notices, performance improvement plans, and employee rebuttals
  • Performance evaluations and goal setting records
  • Resignation letter and/or termination notice issued to Employee
  • Notice of outcome related to the resolution of a grievance, complaint, or allegation
  • Performance complaints against the employee

Generally, information or documents must be included if they would be relevant to a manager who may review the file when making employment decisions – items related to the employee’s performance, knowledge, skills, abilities or behavior.

Examples of items that must be maintained separately from the official personnel file are:

  • Pre-employment records including interview notes, background check reports, and letters of reference (with the exception of the application and resume)
  • Records relating to ratings, reports, or records, that were prepared by identifiable examination committee members or were obtained in connection with a promotional exam, including records obtained and prepared for University Committee on Appointments, Promotions and Tenure (UCAPT).
  • Auxiliary medical files such as: Disability Claim Forms, Accident/Injury Reports, workers’ compensation documents, physician evaluations, and medical information, including medical records or correspondence related to any medical condition of the employee or the employee’s family
  • Records relating to workplace investigations, including reports related to such investigations, witness interview notes, and related documents must be maintained as confidential records by the designated investigative office, with the exception of any notice of outcome, corrective action or directive issued to an employee as a result of an investigation
  • Records relating to the investigation of a possible criminal offense
  • Communications from or to University attorneys, employee settlement agreements, lawsuits, and charges to outside agencies (EEOC, OCR, OFCCP, etc.)

Medical-Related Documents

Examples of medical-related information about employees that must be electronically maintained in Workday or an officially approved electronic system in the appropriate categories separate from the official personnel file include but are not limited to:

  • Any document that contains private medical information about the employee or the employee’s family
  • Doctor notes and return to work notices
  • FMLA/CFRA documents
  • Documents or correspondence related to reasonable accommodation and work restrictions
  • Communications during the interactive process
  • Correspondence related to medical leaves

Other Confidential Records

These types of records are not to be maintained in the official personnel file:

  • Equal employment opportunity (EEO)/invitation to self-identify disability or veteran status records
  • Reference/background checks
  • Drug test results
  • Immigration (I-9) forms
  • Litigation documents
  • Workers’ compensation claims
  • Requests for employment/payroll verification

Confidential Information

Documents with sensitive information, such as date of birth, marital status, dependent information, Social Security numbers, medical information, immigration status, national origin, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability status, criminal history, financial history, subjective statements or accusations must be handled with care to ensure privacy of the information and placed in the appropriate Workday document category to ensure proper security access. If the document category is not available, contact the HR Service Center for assistance.

Viewing Privileges – Personnel Files

Employees can view personnel information in Workday at any time, but to formally request to inspect or receive a printed copy of their personnel file, they must submit a completed personnel record request form to Human Resources Administration. Access to personnel files is coordinated exclusively by Human Resources Administration; school/unit-based HR personnel or managers may not provide access to printed personnel file documents under any circumstances.

Former employees may also request to inspect or receive a copy of their personnel file by submitting a completed personnel record request form. (They may also contact Human Resources Administration at uschr@usc.edu or (213) 821-8100 to obtain the form.)

For current or former employees, HR Administration will require confirmation of employee identity and may charge the current or former employee for the reproduction of the records, which will be provided within 30 calendar days of receipt of the request form. In addition, former employees reviewing documents on site must be accompanied by an authorized University representative.

Viewing Privileges – Payroll Records

A current or former employee may request a copy of their own Payroll Records no more than three years old from Payroll Services to which itemized wage statements will be produced.  Payroll Services will require confirmation of employee identity and may charge the current or former employee for the reproduction of the records, which will be provided within 21 days of the written request.

Release of Employee Information

Releasing to outside third parties information that has not been authorized for release by the employee can have serious implications for the University. Except as required by law or as authorized in writing by the employee, no information from an employee’s personnel file will be released to a third party either verbally or in writing other than job title and dates of employment for employment verifications.

Inquiries from prospective employers of faculty should be directed to the appropriate dean. For staff employees, Payroll Services is the only entity authorized to respond to employment inquiries or to engage the services of a third-party vendor to do so on the University’s behalf. In either case, unless otherwise authorized by the employee, only the employee’s job title, most recent hire date, termination date (if no longer employed by USC), and total time with USC will be provided.

An employee may authorize the release of salary information (e.g., for purposes of credit evaluation) by providing specific authorization for the party (lenders, landlords, etc.) requesting the salary information. Payroll Services is the University entity authorized to respond to, or engage the services of a third party to respond to, inquiries regarding income information.

Nothing in this section prohibits faculty from providing letters of recommendation for students or other faculty.

Release of Information to Comply with Subpoena

All subpoenas served to obtain information contained in University personnel files must be directed immediately to the Office of the General Counsel.

Retention Requirements

See Record Management policy.

6. Procedures


7. Forms

Personnel Record Request Form (see form in attachments)

8. Responsibilities

Human ResourcesMaintain official personnel files for employees.
Manage all personnel records requests.
Department Human Resources partner or designee (custodian of records)Monitor and maintain the contents of an employee’s personnel files.
Payroll ServicesManage all payroll records requests.
Office of General CounselManage and respond to any subpoena requests.
EmployeeSubmit personnel records requests and/or payroll records requests, if needed.

10. Related Information

Providing Employment References policy

Record Management policy

Data Privacy policy

11. Contacts

Please direct any questions regarding this policy to:

HR Service Center (HRSC)213-821-8100 uschr@usc.edu

Questions about individual policies should be directed to the “responsible office” listed at the end of each policy.