SECTION INDEX:    Employee Files Policy

1    Purpose

2    Reference

3    Application

4    Guidance

4.1    Personnel File Contents

4.2    Access

4.3    Disciplinary Materials

4.4    Department Employee Files


An employee’s permanent personnel file is maintained by Administrative Services Department (Payroll) and Human Resources (HR). Supervisors may also maintain a supervisory file for reference between evaluation periods. Once an evaluation has been completed the contents of the supervisory file should either be sent to HR for inclusion in the employee’s permanent file or destroyed.


•    RCW 40.12 Preservation and Destruction of Public Records.

•    RCW 40.10 Essential Records

•    RCW 42.56 Public Records Act

•    RCW 49.12.240-260 Employee Inspection of Personnel Files

•    Administrative Policy 19- Records Management Policy


This Policy applies to all individuals currently or previously employed by the City of Olympia. Specific Department policies, civil service rules, labor agreements, individual employment contracts, or memorandums of understanding may provide clarification or greater detail than this Policy. Departments are encouraged to adopt additional policies regarding employee file maintenance to meet the operational needs of the department, provided they are consistent with the provisions of this Policy. Failure to comply with this Policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination from City service.


The contents and location of files containing information about employees is of concern to most employees. Administrative Services (and HR) will strive to protect the confidentiality of employee files consistent with legal requirements.


a.    Access Report: A log indicating who has checked out the personnel file, including reason for review.

b.    Personal Information: Name, address, phone numbers, date of birth, social security number, medical insurance coverage and emergency contact information.

c.    Payroll Information: Personnel Action Forms, employment and separation records, deduction authorizations, and W-4 forms.

d.    Education/Training: A record of completed education and training.

e.    Work History: Performance reviews, disciplinary information, job applications, safety violations, safety orientation checklist, credit reports, outside employment approval, weapon certification, pictures, fingerprints and I-9 verification forms, as pertinent to employment.

f.    Commendations: Letter, emails, or memos praising the employee and/or the employee’s performance.

Medical information or medical history will be kept in an employee’s medical file. (Refer to Policy 8-Employee Wellness).

No information regarding an employee’s request for leave related to domestic violence, sexual abuse or stalking will be kept in these files.


Access to files will be allowed as follows:

a.    The following people will have access to the employee’s file:

1.    Employee;

2.    City Manager or designee;

3.    HR and Administrative Services Staff (Payroll) as authorized by the Director;

4.    Supervisors, Managers, and Department Directors within the employee’s direct chain of command;

5.    City Attorneys;

6.    An attorney representing the employee or the City of Olympia and/or their agent; and

7.    An investigator retained by the City to conduct an investigation in which documents in the employee’s file are deemed relevant.

b.    Production of File: The City will produce an employee’s personnel file when a lawful subpoena or court order requires it. The City may provide the employee with notice of the subpoena or court order and an opportunity to seek protective relief from the court before the City releases records.

c.    Public Record: The City will produce documents from an employee’s file when a public records request seeks documents, which the City believes are not subject to any exemption. The City may provide the employee with notice of the public records request and an opportunity to seek protective relief from the court before the City releases records.

d.    Review by Employee: Any employee wishing to view their permanent personnel file should make an appointment to do so with a Human Resources staff member present. In the case of supervisory employee files, the department employee should make a request to the supervisor who will be present during the review.

e.    Copying File: An employee or former employee cannot make a copy of their personnel file on their own, but may request a copy from Human Resources.

f.    Authorization to Access File: The employee may authorize access to their employee file by providing written authorization. No access is allowed except as stated above without written authorization from the employee. A copy of any authorization will be retained in the employee’s file.

4.3. Medical Files

A medical file will be created and/or maintained for each employee when health care information is received. Medical files will be maintained by Administrative Services and will be kept separate from other employee files.

a.    Confidentiality: All medical records will be managed (maintained, released, or exempt from release) in accordance with federal, state and local laws. Release of medical records and health care information will be governed by applicable law.

b.    Medical File Contents: The following categories of information may be maintained in the employee’s medical file:

•    Access Report. A policy statement regarding who has access to the file and a record of those reviewing the file with date of access and a copy of the written authorization, when required.

•    Medical History. Medical leave requests, return to duty slips and doctor’s comments and other such medical documents as pertinent to employment or the result of employment.

c.    Access: The following people will be allowed access to an employee’s medical file:

•    Employee, an attorney representing the employee, Human Resources staff as authorized by the Director, the City Manager, an attorney representing the City, and any other person authorized by the City Manager.

•    Terminated City employees retain the same access rights to their own medical files as current employees.

•    The employee may authorize access to their medical file by providing written authorization. A copy of this authorization will be retained in the employee’s medical file.

•    Any employee wishing to view their own medical file should make an appointment with Human Resources personnel. Access to employee medical files will not be allowed without a Human Resources staff member present with the exception of the City’s attorneys or City Manager.

d.    Terminated Employees:

•    Medical files of employees who are separated from City service will be kept in Human Resources for one (1) year.

•    After one (1) year the files may be archived. The medical records will be destroyed according to the records retention schedule (Currently, 30 years after termination of employment).

All computerized medical files will have appropriate security in order to limit access to only those allowed under this policy.


Disciplinary material may be removed upon the written request of the employee and written approval of the department director or in accordance with the provisions of an applicable collective bargaining agreement, provided such removal is permitted by law.


Employee files retained by the departments, which contain documentation also contained in the permanent HR employee file, are subject to all the provisions of this policy. If no such material is retained in the department files, the department director may allow additional access to department files when necessary for research, file maintenance purposes or to accomplish a specific mission of the department (Example: Fire Training Officer to plan training programs).

Revision history: February 2018; February 2017; October 2013; September 2011. Superseded: Administrative Guideline Employee Files.