This policy provides guidance to employees about their privileges and obligations with respect to their own personnel records, and guides UNC Asheville personnel responsible for producing and maintaining personnel records in the appropriate handling of those records.
These provisions apply to SHRA and EHRA employees (faculty and non-faculty), temporary and adjunct faculty employees, and to applicants seeking employment for positions in these classifications.
Personnel File - For the purposes of this policy, a personnel file consists of any employment-related or personal information about a UNC Asheville employee, former employee or applicant for employment gathered by the University.
Personnel Record – a document within a personnel file.
Employment-related information includes information related to an individual’s:
- contract for employment,
- promotions, demotions, and transfers,
- performance evaluation forms, and
- suspension, disciplinary actions and termination.
Personal information includes an individual’s:
- home address,
- social security number,
- medical history,
- personal financial data,
- marital status, dependents and
Human Resources maintains the official personnel record for each current SHRA, EHRA Non-Faculty, and temporary employee, and benefits files for faculty. Personnel files for faculty (including adjuncts) are maintained by the Office of the Provost. All personnel files should be maintained in a secure area.
Any university office that maintains personnel files must establish controls to protect the records from unauthorized disclosure. Departmental personnel files must be maintained in a secure area and should only contain the departmental copy of the employee’s job description, performance management documents and leave documents. When employment terminates, any staff personnel files maintained by the department should be forwarded to Human Resources.
Proper handling of employee personnel records by The University of North Carolina at Asheville as a public institution requires coordination of the interests of the employees, UNC Asheville as the employer, and the general public. State law in North Carolina places certain requirements on handling state employee personnel records and establishes penalties for their violation. No access to or disclosure from employee personnel records is permitted except in accordance with these requirements.
Human Resources, in consultation with University General Counsel when appropriate, reviews requests for access to, or disclosure of, a staff personnel record and releases this information as provided in State law. In the case of faculty records, the Office of the Provost, in consultation with University General Counsel when appropriate, reviews requests for access to or disclosure of faculty personnel records and releases this information as provided in State law.
I. Contents of Personnel Records
Personnel Records for the University contain both confidential information and records that are considered public information (or records open to inspection).
A. Public Information / Records Open for Inspection
The law requires the university to allow the public to have access to the following information from UNC Asheville’s personnel records:
- Age (not date of birth).
- Date of original employment or appointment.
- Contracts (terms, whether written or oral, past and current, to the extent that the university has the written contract or a record of the oral contract in its possession).
- Current position.
- Current salary (includes pay, benefits, incentives, bonuses, and deferred and all other forms of compensation paid by the employing agency).
- Date and amount of each increase or decrease in salary with UNC Asheville.
- Date and type of each promotion, demotion, transfer, suspension, separation, or other change in position classification with UNC Asheville.
- Date and general description of the reasons for each promotion with UNC Asheville.
- Date and type of each dismissal, suspension or demotion for disciplinary reasons taken by UNC Asheville. If the disciplinary action was a dismissal, a copy of the written notice of the final decision of the head of the department setting forth the specific acts or omissions that are the basis of the dismissal.
- The office or station to which employee is currently assigned.
B. Confidential Information
All employment-related and personal information in an employee’s personnel file not specified under “Records Open for Inspection” is confidential.
The University maintains in personnel records only information that is relevant to accomplishing personnel administration purposes. Information obtained regarding the medical condition or history of an applicant that is collected by the University must be maintained in a separate file in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (42 U.S.C. 12112).
Advisory Note: Some information may be kept in an employee’s personnel file which an employee believes is confidential but which does not fall into any of the above categories (e.g., information about an employee’s benefits). If a public records request is made for any information that is kept in an employee’s personnel file, and the information is not open for inspection under G.S. 126-23, the University should get both the consent of the employee and the advice of counsel before releasing such information.
All requests for access to staff personnel information from any person or agency except the subject employee or the employee’s supervisors (see section V below) should be referred to the Human Resources Department. Requests for access to faculty personnel information from any person or agency except the subject employee or the employee’s supervisors (see section V below) should be referred to the Office of the Provost.
II. Disclosure of Personnel Records
The public information/records open for inspection listed above shall be made available upon written request for inspection and examination and copies thereof made by any persons during regular business hours, subject to the following provisions:
A. All disclosures of records shall be accounted for by keeping a written record of the following information:
- Name of employee
- Information disclosed
- Date information was requested
- Name and address of the person to whom the disclosure is made (if the person requesting the information is willing to provide such information)
The information must be retained for a period of two years. This does not apply to the processing of personnel records for routine credit reference.
B. Upon request, the record of disclosure shall be made available to the employee to whom it pertains.
C. In accordance with the university’s Public Records Policy, an individual examining a personnel record may copy the information; any available photocopying facilities may be provided and the cost may be assessed to the individual.
D. Any person denied access to records shall have a right to seek compliance with these provisions by application to a court for a writ of mandamus or other appropriate relief.
III. Location of Personnel Records
A. Employees - Personnel records for SHRA, EHRA Non-Faculty and temporary employees are retained in the Human Resources Department. Records on faculty benefits are also retained in the Human Resources Department. All other personnel records for faculty employees are retained by the Office of the Provost. Personnel records for adjuncts are retained in the Office of the Deans.
B. Applicants – Records on all unsuccessful applicants for SHRA and EHRA Non-Faculty positions are retained in the Human Resources Department for three years, and then destroyed. Application materials for faculty and adjunct positions are maintained in the academic departments and/or the Office of the Deans and/or the Office of the Provost for three years, and then destroyed.
IV. Retention Schedule
Records are maintained in accordance with the University General Records Retention and Disposition Schedule, available on the North Carolina Office of Archives and History web site.
V. Employee Inspection of His/Her Personnel File
A staff employee, former staff employee or applicant for a staff position who wishes to inspect his/her file should make a written request to the Director of Human Resources or the Director of Employee Relations; in the case of faculty or adjuncts, to the Provost.
- The Director of Human Resources or the Director of Employee Relations will arrange for a human resources representative to schedule a time for the individual to inspect his/her personnel file per legal guidelines.
- The Provost will arrange for a provost’s office representative to schedule a time for the individual to inspect his/her personnel file per legal guidelines.
VI. Maintaining Confidentiality and Permitting Access
Employees responsible for maintaining personnel records and files of UNC Asheville employees should permit access to those records only in accordance with the requirements in this section unless they receive special instructions from their supervisor.
Individuals requesting access to confidential information must submit a written request and will be required to submit satisfactory proof of identity.
A record shall be made of each disclosure (except disclosures to the employee and his or her supervisor) and the record shall be placed in the employee’s official personnel file.
All information in an employee’s personnel file shall be open for examination to the following persons:
A. The supervisor of the employee: for this purpose, supervisor is any individual in the chain of administrative authority above the employee within the university.
B. Members of the General Assembly (authority G.S. 120-19).
C. A party by authority of a proper court order.
D. An official of an agency of the Federal government, State government or any political subdivision thereof. An official is a person who has official or authorized duties in behalf of an agency; it does not imply a necessary level of duty or responsibility. Such an official may inspect any personnel records when such inspection is deemed by the department head to be necessary and essential to the pursuance of a proper function of said agency; provided, however, that such information will not be divulged for purposes of assisting in a criminal prosecution or a tax investigation.
This right to access includes the circumstances where one State agency or university is considering for employment a person who is or has been employed in another State agency or university; the head of the latter agency or university may release to an official of another State university or agency information relative to the employee’s job performance.
E. A party to a quasi-judicial hearing of a State agency, or a State agency which is conducting a quasi-judicial hearing, may have access to relevant material in personnel files and may introduce copies of such material or information based on such material as evidence in the hearing either upon consent of the employee, former employee, or applicant for employment or upon subpoena properly issued by the agency either upon request of a party or on its own motion.
F. The employee (or his/her authorized agent), applicant for employment, or former employee who is the subject of a personnel record may have access to the personnel record in its entirety, except for confidential letters of recommendation solicited prior to employment and certain medical records.
1. Confidential letters of recommendation include notes from telephone reference checks and statements from UNC Asheville and other individuals solicited prior to the initial date of employment. All copies of such confidential letters of recommendation should be forwarded to the Human Resources Department for staff, to the Office of the Provost for faculty, and to the Office of the Deans for adjuncts.
2. Information concerning a medical disability, mental or physical, that a prudent physician would not divulge to a patient are not available to the employee. The medical record may be disclosed to a licensed physician designated in writing by the employee. When medical information is obtained on any employee, the physician should indicate any information that should not be disclosed to the employee.
Because medical records require special confidentiality requirements, all copies of such documents should be forwarded to the Benefits Office or the Director of Employee Relations in the Department of Human Resources for staff and to the Office of the Provost for faculty and adjuncts.
Employees responsible for maintaining personnel files are expected to review the personnel file for the presence of confidential recommendations and medical records before permitting any employee access to his or her personnel file.
VII. Records of Former Employees and Applicants for Employment
The provisions for access to records apply to former employees and applicants the same as they apply to present employees. Personnel files of former State employees who have been separated from State employment for ten or more years may be open to inspection and examination as defined in this policy except for papers and documents relating to demotions and to disciplinary actions resulting in the dismissal of the employee.
VIII. Releasing Confidential Information
Each individual requesting access to confidential information will be required to submit satisfactory proof of identity.
A record shall be made of each disclosure (except disclosures to the employee and his or her supervisor) and the record shall be placed in the employee’s file.
The Chancellor may, under the conditions specified, take the following action with respect to an applicant, employee or former employee employed by or assigned to the university, whose personnel file is maintained by the university. The Chancellor may allow the employee’s personnel file or a portion of the personnel file to be inspected and examined by any person or corporation when the Chancellor determines that inspection is essential to maintaining the integrity of the department or university, or maintaining the level or quality of services provided by the department or university. Under these circumstances, the Chancellor may, in his or her discretion, inform any person or corporation of any:
- employment or non-employment of such applicant, employee, or former employee, or
- other confidential matters contained in the personnel file.
Prior to releasing such information or making such file or portion thereof available as provided herein, the Chancellor shall prepare a memorandum setting forth the circumstances that the department has determined requires such disclosure, and the information to be disclosed, with a copy of the memorandum sent to the employee and the memorandum retained as a public record in the personnel file.
Information and documents not relevant to personnel administration should not be retained in the personnel file.
X. Remedies for Employee Objections to Material in the Personnel File
Any present or former employee is legally entitled to take either or both of the following actions if he or she considers the material in the personnel file to be inaccurate or misleading:
A. Place in the file a statement relating to the material considered inaccurate or misleading.
B. Seek removal of material in the file in accordance with the grievance procedure applicable to the employee’s category of employment; however, the employee does not have the right to appeal beyond the campus level when seeking to remove inaccurate or misleading material from their file.
XI. Notice to Employee of Disclosure of Confidential Information to Outside Agencies
Unless prohibited by law, the University will notify the employee as promptly as possible when it makes a disclosure of confidential information required or permitted by law, as in response to a subpoena, court order, or to a properly authorized government official. The University official making such disclosure is responsible for notifying the employee in writing, with a copy of the notice to the personnel file. No such notice will be given when the only information requested is information available to the general public.
XII. Access to Information Used For Personnel Actions
Information used in making a determination about employment or other personnel actions should be, to the extent practical, obtained directly from the individual. There may be instances where it is necessary to obtain information from other sources. This may be obtained either directly from those sources or by the use of a consumer reporting agency.
If a consumer reporting agency is utilized, the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Title VI of The Consumer Credit Protection Act (Public Law 91-508) must be followed.
A. When a consumer reporting agency furnishes a report and employment, promotion, or reassignment is denied on the basis, in whole or in part, of information in the report, the applicant or employee must be informed and given the name and address of the consumer reporting agency. The appointing authority does not have to reveal the contents of the report.
B. When an investigative consumer report is requested from a consumer reporting agency, the individual must be notified within three days, and told that he/she can make a written request for the “nature and scope” of the investigation. “Nature and scope” includes a description of the questions asked, disclosure of numbers and types of persons interviewed, and the name and address of the investigating agency.
XIII. Legal Considerations
A. Penalty for Permitting Access to Confidential File By Unauthorized Person -
G.S. 126-27 provides that any public official or employee who permits any person to have access to or custody or possession of any portion of a personnel file designated as confidential, when that person is not specifically authorized to have access to the information, is guilty of a misdemeanor; upon conviction he or she may be fined up to $500 in the discretion of the court.
B. Penalty for Examining, Copying, etc., Confidential File Without Authority – G.S. 126-28 provides that any person, not specifically authorized to have access to a personnel file designated as confidential, who examines in its official filing place, removes, or copies any portion of a confidential personnel file, is guilty of a misdemeanor; upon conviction he or she may be fined up to $500 in the discretion of the court.
NC State Personnel Manual, Section 3, Personnel Records