Personnel File Policy


In order to have a complete, accurate and current record of an employee’s employment history at Michigan State University, the university maintains personnel records which constitute each employee’s personnel file. This policy sets forth university expectations regarding the establishment, use, and maintenance of an employee’s personnel file.


An employee’s personnel file is composed of personnel records that may be a hybrid of both paper and electronic records and may be stored in central Human Resources, the unit or digitally. The primary statute in Michigan governing personnel records, the Bullard-Plawecki Employee Right To Know Act, defines a “personnel record” to include any “record kept by the employer, to the extent that the record is used or has been used, or may affect or be used relative to that employee’s qualifications for employment, promotion, transfer, additional compensation, or disciplinary action.” The university uses this definition in defining a personnel record. The university’s collective bargaining agreements may also contain provisions applicable to the contents and maintenance of a personnel file. For additional information on specific documents that comprise a personnel file, see the tables in the “Contents” section below.


The requirements in this policy apply to all university employees including executive managers, faculty and academic staff, support staff, temporary and on-call employees, graduate assistants, student employees, paid interns and paid residents. Individuals with no-pay status and volunteers are not employees of the university; therefore, the university does not maintain personnel files for such individuals.


Items Included in a Personnel File

A personnel file will include, but is not limited to, the records in the table below, if applicable to the employee.  

Personnel File Record

Employment application materials.

De-identified reference letters.

Offer letter and acceptance.

Employment contract.

Forms and supporting documentation related to an employee’s hiring or changes in employment status and/or position duties.

Employee acknowledgment or consent forms related to hiring, orientation or employment.

Current salary and salary history.

Special or additional payment forms.

Copies of required certification/licensing/educational degree.

Any required university or unit training certification, if used relative to that employee’s qualifications for employment, promotion, transfer, additional compensation, or disciplinary action.

Conflict of interest in employment form.

Performance evaluation, goal setting and professional development plan, and any associated performance improvement plan and/or interim or probationary evaluation.

Awards or other formal recognition received by the University.

Performance counseling records.

Disciplinary action, including any written reprimand, suspension or discharge, as well as any attached documentation. Retention may be governed by collective bargaining agreement for certain employee types.

Letters of Agreement for employees under a collective bargaining agreement.

Summary of final investigatory reports and determinations under the Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct and Title IX Policy and Anti-Discrimination Policy (gender discrimination and retaliation based on gender discrimination only) where the employee is a respondent must be included in a personnel file. [1]

Any record not set forth above that has been used, or may affect or be used, relative to an employee’s qualifications for employment, promotion, transfer, additional compensation, or disciplinary action.

Non-Personnel File Materials / Materials to be Stored Separately

The items listed in the table below are generally not considered personnel records and are not part of the personnel file and should be maintained separate from the personnel file. 

Non-Personnel File Materials

EEO/Affirmative Action data.

Reference letters, if not de-identified.

Staff planning materials that relate to more than one employee including salary increases, management bonus plans, promotions, and job assignments.

Information about a person other than the employee if disclosure of the information would constitute an unwarranted invasion of the other person’s privacy.

Background checks

Form I-9s

Records kept by an executive, administrative, or professional employee that are kept in the sole possession of the maker of the record, and are not accessible or shared with other persons. However, a record concerning an occurrence or fact about an employee may be entered into a personnel record if entered not more than 6 months after the date of the occurrence or the date the fact becomes known.

Medical information. [2]  

Leave of absence documentation related to a Family and Medical Leave Act, disability, or workers’ compensation leave or action. [3]

Reasonable accommodation requests and related documentation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. [4]

Insurance and/or benefit plan choices and beneficiary information.

Additions or Deletions to a Personnel File

A request by an employee to add or remove information from a personnel file should be directed to the MSU HR Records Manager, Academic HR or the designated MSU HR representative. If mutually agreed upon by MSU HR or Academic HR and the employee, information contained in a personnel file may be removed or corrected. If an agreement is not reached, the employee may submit to MSU HR a written statement explaining the employee’s position. The statement shall not exceed 5 sheets of 8½-inch by 11-inch paper and shall be placed in the personnel file.

Access to a Personnel File

  1. Access by the Employee
    As often as twice a year, an employee may inspect and review the employee’s personnel file. The employee must submit a written request to review the file to MSU HR, MSU HR will process all personnel file requests and will assemble all personnel file records, including those located outside MSU HR, for review by the employee. Once the request has been processed, MSU HR will contact the employee to schedule the review. In all instances, individuals reviewing documents will be accompanied by an authorized university representative. The review shall take place at MSU HR during normal business hours. If a review during normal business hours would require the employee to take time off work, the employee shall be provided some other reasonable time or opportunity for review. After review, the employee may obtain a copy of some or all of the personnel file, in which case only actual costs may be charged.
  2. Access by University Personnel
    University officers, executive managers, deans, department heads, supervisors, human resource professionals, investigators, representatives of the Office of the General Counsel or other university personnel with a business need to do so may review an individual’s personnel file upon request and demonstration of the business need.
  3. Access by a Third Party
    1. Michigan Freedom of Information Act
      A Freedom of Information Act request for a personnel file shall be directed to the MSU Freedom of Information Act Office for review and response. Units are not authorized to respond directly to Freedom of Information Act requests.
    2. Summons/Subpoena
      A summons or subpoena for a personnel file shall be directed to the Office of the General Counsel for review and response. Units are not authorized to accept service for a summons or subpoena.
    3. Disciplinary Action
      Under most circumstances, written notice will be provided to an employee before divulging disciplinary action contained in a personnel file to a third party [5] . Written notice must be by first-class mail to the employee’s last known address and must be mailed on or before the day the information is divulged from the personnel record. Any disciplinary action more than four years old will not be released to a third party except when ordered in a legal action to a party in that legal action and other limited circumstances described in the Bullard Plawecki Right to Know Act, MCL 423.507.

Personnel File Maintenance and Retention

MSU Human Resources is responsible for compiling all employee personnel files including gathering documentation from units and electronic systems or other areas as needed. Units are expected to comply with all MSU Human Resources records requests. A personnel file and its component personnel records must be retained in compliance with the law, the MSU Human Resources Records Retention Schedule and applicable collective bargaining agreements. 


Anyone who violates this policy may be subject to discipline up to and including discharge.


Issued:  1/1/20
Revised: 5/1/22

Personnel File Policy FAQs


[1] The summary will describe the nature of the investigation in sufficient detail for a reasonable reviewer to identify potential patterns of behavior; will state whether a violation was found; and if so, the sanction(s) imposed.

[2] Note, medical information must be stored separately from a personnel file and be treated as confidential, disclosed only on a need-to-know basis per 29 CFR 1630.14.

[3] See footnote 2.

[4] See footnote 3.

[5] Third party, as used in this policy, does not include a labor organization that represents the employee, a governmental agency requesting the information or a court ordering production of the information.