MSU Human Resources >> Policies-procedures >> University-wide >> Personnel File Policy FAQs

Personnel File Policy FAQs

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Yes. Upon written request and by appointment, an employee may review his or her personnel file. The written request should be sent to the MSU Human Resources Solutions Center via email at , fax at 517-432-3862 or mail at MSU Human Resources – Solutions Center, 1407 S. Harrison Rd., Ste. 110, East Lansing, Michigan, 48823.

No. If a document falls within the definition of “personnel record,” as defined in the MSU Personnel File Policy it is included in the personnel file, regardless of its physical location.

MSU HR maintains the official personnel file for MSU employees and will compile all records as needed, whether stored in the department, centrally, or digitally.   

The applicable retention policy can be found on the University Archives website under Human Resources Records at

Yes. Upon written request to the MSU HR Solutions Center, a supervisor or hiring manager can set an appointment to review relevant portions of the personnel files of finalists for a posted position. For the fastest response, requests should be emailed to with a subject line of “Hiring Manager File Review”. The body of the email should include the employee name and the posting number of the position for which the individual has applied.  

FOIA requires disclosure of certain records. Depending on the wording of the request, documents within the personnel file may be required to be released under FOIA. All FOIA requests must be directed to the MSU FOIA office. MSU Human Resources provides materials to the FOIA Office for review and further distribution as appropriate.

The investigation summaries were a new requirement effective January 1, 2020, as part of the resolution agreement between MSU and the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights.  Summaries must be placed in the applicable employee respondent’s central personnel and departmental file, whether there is a finding of a violation or not, when a formal investigation is completed related to any alleged violation of the Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct and Title IX Policy or Anti-Discrimination Policy (gender discrimination and retaliation based on reports of gender discrimination only). The summary will provide sufficient detail for a reasonable reviewer to identify potential patterns of behavior and indicate whether a finding of violation was made.

Note that where the MSU Office for Civil Rights (OCR) investigation and resolution process results in a finding that an employee violated the RVSMP or ADP (gender discrimination/retaliation), unit leadership must also ensure that any discipline imposed is included in the employee’s personnel file.

The Equity Review Officer (ERO) prepares and sends the summaries to MSU Human Resources at and the employee respondent’s unit leader(s) for inclusion in the employee respondent’s personnel file.  All other personnel file related requests and questions should be sent to
Documentation regarding allegations reported to OIE is maintained separately within OIE/OCR and not in personnel files. Other than the summaries of final investigatory reports or determinations described above, OIE investigations may be referenced in disciplinary action imposed as a result of the OIE/OCR process.
MSU’s Resolution Agreement with the Department of Education requires a summary for formal investigations and determinations related to gender discrimination. MSU does not otherwise prepare summaries of investigations to include in personnel files. If discipline results from an OIE finding that an employee engaged in discrimination or harassment based on another protected category, that finding may be reflected in discipline records contained in the personnel file. 
Supervisors (including deans and chairs) should secure personnel files so that only authorized access is permitted. As the Personnel File Policy requires, supervisors must be responsive to MSU HR’s requests for departmental files and/or separate supervisory working files.

Support Staff: Counseling memorandums are maintained at the department level.  Additionally, departments may, but are not required to, maintain departmental personnel files for support staff.  Departmental files may include reference copies of information already provided to MSU HR for the official personnel file such as evaluations, as well as additional supplemental information, such as official communications, awards, training certifications, etc.  Departmental files should not include any of the information identified in the Personnel File Policy as not being part of a personnel file.

Faculty, Academic Staff and Executive Managers: Departments are required to maintain departmental personnel files for faculty, academic staff and executive managers which minimally include the following items that are not routinely forwarded to HR for inclusion in the central file such as: documentation related to annual evaluations such as the written evaluation, written summary of activities, department/college peer review statements, and comments or responses to the evaluation from the employee, overload pay and outside work for pay forms, disciplinary letters, modified duties applications, official communications to the employee from the department related to their employment or vice versa, time records (as required by a unit), SIRS evaluations, awards and nomination materials, and evidence of any certifications or trainings required for assignments they hold.   It may also include items for reference that are routinely already housed within HR files such as form attachments, offer letters, fixed term memorandums, degree verification, etc.  Departmental files should not include any of the materials identified in the Personnel File Policy as not being a part of the personnel file.  Working files of supervisors should be kept separate from the Departmental Personnel files. 

A supervisor may keep a working file on an individual employee, separate from the departmental file or the file in MSU HR, to track work in progress, conduct, and day-to-day performance related information. A supervisor’s working file typically contains documents of ongoing work such as notes of conversations, assignments, status reports and milestones to support annual performance evaluations.  It might also include notes about conduct that have not yet resulted in discipline.

The documents in these separate working files are not considered personnel records as long as they are prepared by the supervisor for their own use and are not shared with anyone else.  Keep in mind that FOIA or other laws may nevertheless still subject these files to disclosure at some future point as a result of a future claim, charge, complaint, and/or legal process.

A best practice for supervisors is to adopt a process of documenting what is directly observed and notable about an employee’s performance as well as content of informal conversations with employees about their performance and/or conduct. These notes should be factual, objective, dated and written in a timely manner.  Having these notes will improve the manager’s ability to write a thorough annual performance review including examples and dates. Additionally, having documentation showing when a manager provided improvement feedback or coaching to their employee helps to determine when a move to formal corrective action is appropriate.

As the Personnel File Policy states, any documents that reference an employee’s medical and/or health issues are confidential and should be maintained in a separate file.

For questions not resolved by reviewing the Personnel File Policy or these FAQs, please contact the MSU HR Solutions Center at 517-353-4434 or  

Per the Personnel File Policy, direct them to the Solutions Center in MSU HR. Solutions Center Staff will contact the department to request a copy of the departmental file to be combined with materials at HR for a complete file review.

At the time of an employee’s separation from service or transfer to a new unit, the employee’s personnel file becomes inactive.  The employee’s supervisor should then transfer the departmental personnel file to MSU HR for retention and disposition in accordance with the university’s retention schedule. Working files should remain with the supervisor.