Published February 25, 2019
The university maintains personnel information for each employee to ensure a complete, accurate and current record of documents related to the job and employment status of an employee. The file serves as the historical record of information pertaining to an employee from the date of hire to separation.
The university has custody over the employee’s personnel file and confidentiality is strictly maintained. The practice of the university is not to release this information except by operation of law.
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. 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 relating to 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 including supporting documents for time off such as bereavement, jury duty and court order appearances
- Employee’s request to change work arrangements including percentage of effort and telecommuting along with the manager’s approval or denial
- 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, performance improvement plans, and employee rebuttals
- Performance evaluations and goal setting records
- Termination records
- Records reflecting 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 and letters of reference (with the exception of the application and resume)
- Whistleblower complaints made by an employee (must be retained by the university, generally by the Office of Compliance)
- Protected class complaints (must be retained by the university, generally by the Office of Equity and Diversity)
- Investigation notes generated from informal complaint investigations
- Medical information, including medical records or correspondence related to any medical condition of the employee or the employee’s family
- Manager’s working files and notes
- Marginal notes on documents that reflect opinions or judgments that are not supported by fact or documentation
- Court orders such as notices of garnishment or restraining orders
- Records relating to the investigation of a possible criminal offense
- I-9 forms
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
Other records are created and are maintained by a central department. 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
- Child support/garnishments
- Litigation documents
- Workers’ compensation claims
- Investigation records
- Requests for employment/payroll verification
Highly sensitive and 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, criminal history, financial history, subjective statements or accusations must be handled with care 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 his/her own payroll records no more than three years old from Payroll Services. 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 request.
Release of employee information
Releasing to outside third parties information that has not been authorized for release by the employee can have serious legal implications for the university. Except as required by law, no information from an employee’s personnel file will be released either verbally or in writing other than job title and dates of employment for employment verifications. The only exception to this is if the inquiry is internal, coming from another university department that is considering hiring the employee in question.
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, 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. Also see Providing Employment References policy.
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.
Office of General Counsel
Michael Quick, Provost and Senior Vice President, Academic Affairs
David W. Wright, Interim Senior Vice President, Administration