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FHWA Personnel Management Manual; Part 1: Personnel Systems & Procedures, Chapter 1: Personnel Actions and Records, Section 2: Maintenance of Personnel Records
Classification Code Date
M3000.1C July 30, 2004  


  1. What is the purpose of this section?
  2. Does this directive cancel an existing FHWA directive?
  3. What references were used when writing this section?
  4. What is an Official Personnel Folder (OPF), Standard Form (SF)-66?
  5. What is an Employee Performance File (EPF)?
  6. Is there other information regarding personnel records?


  1. What is the purpose of this section? This section issues guidance regarding the establishment, maintenance, processing, safeguarding, use, and disposition of official personnel records within the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The restrictions on the use of other personal information regarding FHWA employees are also explained. This section should be used in conjunction with the materials that are referenced in paragraph 3.

  2. Does this directive cancel an existing FHWA directive? Yes. This directive cancels FHWA Personnel Management Manual (PMM) Part 1, Chapter 1, Section 2, Maintenance of Personnel Records, dated June 28, 1996.

  3. What references were used when writing this section?

    1. Privacy Act of 1974, Public Law (PL) 93-579 (5 United States Code (U.S.C.) 552a);

    2. Title 5, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 293, Personnel Records;

    3. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Guide to Personnel Recordkeeping, http://www.opm.gov/feddata/recguide2006.pdf;

    4. Title 5, CFR, Part 297, Privacy Procedures for Personnel Records;

    5. Title 5, CFR, Part 293, Subpart D, Employee Performance File System Records;

    6. Departmental Information Resource Management Manual (DIRMM), Chapter 8 – Privacy Act, ;

    7. DIRMM, Chapter 9 – Departmental Records Management Program, ; and

    8. General Records Schedule (GRS) 1, Civilian Personnel Records, National Archives and Records Administration, http://www.archives.gov/records_management/records_schedules.html

  4. What is an Official Personnel Folder (OPF), Standard Form (SF)-66? The OPF is a file that contains the official personnel records of an individual’s employment in FHWA. The FHWA strictly adheres to the legal requirements regarding OPFs. To assure compliance with these requirements, the following aspects are emphasized:

    1. Single OPF for each employee. Only one OPF is maintained for each employee. This single OPF is maintained throughout the employee's career, and it is transferred from Federal agency to Federal agency as the employee moves within the Federal government.

    2. Contents of the OPF

      1. (1) Permanent Records. Only permanent records affecting the employee's status and service are filed on the right side of the OPF. All SFs-50, Notification of Personnel Action, and forms relating to an employee's benefits are examples of permanent records. These documents are filed in chronological order.

      2. (2) Temporary Records. Temporary records are filed on the left side of the OPF. In general, these are documents leading to a formal action but not constituting a record of it nor making a lasting contribution to the employee's record. Most documents and forms listed below are to be retained for a period of 2 years. Exceptions to the two-year retention period for documents, other than forms, are individually noted. Exceptions for filing documents on the left side of the folder may be made by Group Leaders in the Office of Human Resources (HAHR) and by Managers of the Administrative Service Teams in the field offices when determined essential. Such exceptions shall be made in writing and directed to the person responsible for maintaining OPFs with copies to the appropriate personnel.


        Length of Time Retained

        SF-52, Request for Personnel Action - in most instances other than detail and separations.

        Until employee leaves the Agency.

        FHWA-2, Continued Service Agreement for Change of Official Duty Station in Continental United States.

        2 years after fulfillment of agreement.

        Department of Transportation (DOT) F 1500.4, Travel Order For Permanent Change of Station.

        2 years - only those involving a change in duty station.

        FHWA-67, Employee's Agreement to Continue in Service.

        2 years after fulfillment of the agreement.

        FHWA-127, Standard Conditions of Employment for U.S. Citizens Stationed at Overseas Posts.

        2 years after employee returns to the United States.

        OF-264, Medical History and Examination for Foreign Service, and DS-823, Medical Clearance.

        2 years after employee returns to the United States.

        FHWA-150, Request for Authorization of Travel and Moving Expenses to First Duty Station.

        2 years after completion of the agreement.



        Length of Time Retained

        Employment offers and acceptances.

        2 years

        Reassignment (except trainees) or lateral transfers that make an offer or outline conditions thereof.

        2 years

        Promotion offers and replies.

        2 years

        Reduction-in-Force (RIF) Notifications - if in conjunction with a resignation or retirement.

        2 years

        Written reprimand for conduct.

        2 years


      3. (3) Photographs. Photographs of the employee, whether included in a news clipping or in any other format, should not be filed in an OPF.

    3. Safeguarding the OPF

      1. (1) The OPF shall be maintained in the servicing Human Resources Office that has delegated responsibility for processing personnel actions for the employee.

      2. (2) Every precaution shall be taken to prevent the loss or destruction of the OPF. The OPFs shall be maintained in a locked metal cabinet or locked room at all times when they are not in use or when authorized employees are not present to safeguard them.

      3. (3) Removal from, rearrangement of, or adding to the contents of OPFs, except by properly authorized persons, is prohibited.

      4. (4) To ensure that all contents of the OPF are appropriate, authorized persons, designated by the responsible Human Resources Officer, will perform periodic reviews.

      5. (5) An appropriate charge-out system shall be maintained to control the location of each OPF at all times.

      6. (6) Release of information contained in the OPF is governed by requirements of the Privacy Act of 1974 and implementing regulations. See paragraph 4d(1) of this section for further information.

      7. (7) When an OPF must be transmitted through the mail, it should be accompanied by one copy of Form FHWA-1055, "Personnel Folder Transmittal Letter" or facsimile, listing each folder that is being transmitted with the employee's name, social security number, and date of birth. The folders should be placed in fully addressed envelopes of sufficient size to enclose the folders without mutilating or otherwise defacing the covers. When several folders are sent, they shall be securely wrapped and fastened. The inner envelope or package should be marked: “Official Personnel Folder: Forward Unopened to Addressee." Mailroom personnel shall be instructed to forward mail marked in this manner unopened to the addressee. Upon receipt of transmitted folders, the addressee should return the copy of the Form FHWA-1055 (or facsimile) to the addressor acknowledging receipt of the OPFs. OPFs should not be transmitted in an unsealed envelope by inter-office messenger or any other manner.

    4. Release of information contained in the OPF

      1. (1) The DIRMM, Chapter 8 – Privacy Act, describes the FHWA implementation of the Privacy Act of 1974 and subsequent Office of Management and Budget, OPM, and DOT regulations. Chapter 9 of the Departmental Records Management Program contains a description of routine uses of the information contained in the OPF. Questions in this regard should be addressed to the servicing Human Resources Office in the field or the Human Resources Services Group (HAHR-20) in Washington Headquarters.

      2. (2) Information about any Federal employee, which can be verified and released to the public without the permission of the employee, includes the employee's name, present and past position titles, grades, and salaries. The Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 552, directs disclosure of these five items to "any person" without regard to the purpose or need of the individual requesting such information, unless nondisclosure is justified under one or more of the Act's exemptions. As a courtesy, the responsible Human Resources Officer may inform employees when such information is requested and released.

      3. (3) An employee, and/or a representative, who is duly authorized by the employee in writing, is entitled to see the contents of the employee's own OPF, but only in the presence of an official designated by the responsible Human Resources Officer. Generally, such reviews should be requested in advance. Reasonable identification will be required to assure that records are disclosed to the proper person.

      4. (4) Supervisors and other officials, when acting in their official capacity, may have access to an employee’s OPF without specific authorization by the employee.

    5. Transfer and disposition of the OPF

      1. (1) Accessions. When an employee transfers to FHWA from another Federal agency or is reappointed or reinstated, the OPF will be requested no later than three working days after the employee enters on duty. Any pertinent data, such as the SF-50, should be sent to the previous agency to assist them in locating the OPF. A follow-up for receipt of the folder will be maintained.

      2. (2) Transfers. When an employee transfers from the FHWA to another Federal agency outside of DOT, temporary papers on the left side of the folder shall be removed and destroyed. When an employee moves within the DOT the entire OPF is forwarded to the new Federal agency, including the temporary material retained on the left side of the folder. The OPF should be reviewed prior to transmittal to the new appointing office to ensure appropriateness of the material maintained.

      3. (3) Retirements and other separations

        1. (a) When an employee resigns or is separated from the rolls of FHWA, the employee's OPF is held in an inactive file for a period of 30 days, unless the employee is reemployed within the 30-day period by a Federal agency. At the end of the 30-day period, the OPF is forwarded to the National Personnel Records Center. It is important that any unfiled personnel documents be included into the OPF before it is transmitted. This will minimize sending loose documents later. Additionally, the certified SF-1150, Record of Leave Data Transferred, should be filed in the OPF before transmittal.

        2. (b) There are exceptions under which an OPF may be retained by the employing office for a period longer than 30 days. These include:

          1. 1 retirement and death cases -- 120 days after separation or until notified that the claim has been processed;

          2. 2 appeal by the employee following involuntary separation (the OPF is then retained until the appeal is resolved);

          3. 3 employees who transferred to an international organization (the OPF is retained until the employee returns to FHWA);

          4. 4 agency expects to reemploy the person shortly after separation, such as temporary employees (the OPF can be retained up to one year in such cases);

          5. 5 employee separated under conditions that provide reemployment or restoration rights, such as separation to enter military service or separation due to compensable injury (the OPF is retained until the employee returns or reemployment/restoration rights expire);

          6. 6 employees for whom permanent records are outstanding or for whom claims of various sorts are being adjudicated (the OPF should be retained until records are obtained or claims are resolved);

          7. 7 employees involuntarily separated and entitled to severance pay (the OPF is retained until the severance fund is exhausted, or until the employee is reemployed under an appointment for a period greater than one year, whichever occurs first);

          8. 8 employee is placed on a reemployment priority list (the OPF is retained until the employee’s name is removed from the list); and

          9. 9 employee has an ongoing appeal, grievance, complaint, or similar process (the OPF is retained until the appeal is resolved).

      4. (4) Pending transfer. An OPF placed in the inactive file should be designated as inactive for the period of retention by inserting a tag over the date of birth showing the date of separation or reduction-in-force. The insert is removed when the OPF is forwarded.

  5. What is an Employee Performance File (EPF)? The EPF is an official repository for the performance and award records of individual employees. The FHWA adheres to legal and DOT requirements regarding the EPF. The following aspects are emphasized:

    1. EPF for each employee. An EPF is maintained for each employee. This file will provide the employee with collected information on actual performance. Performance information in the EPF will serve as a basis for personnel action decisions such as awards, within grade increases, assignments, reassignments, training, as well as remedial and adverse actions.

    2. Contents of the EPF. The following documents will be maintained in the EPF:

      1. (1) Award documentation;

      2. (2) Performance Appraisal Form (Form FHWA-1552);

      3. (3) Executive Performance Appraisal Record (DOT F 3430.5);

      4. (4) Letters of reprimand, if related to performance; and

      5. (5) Appreciation letters.

    3. Safeguarding the EPF

      1. (1) The EPF shall be maintained in the Human Resources office having the delegated responsibility for maintaining the OPF.

      2. (2) The EPF will be maintained in a locked cabinet or locked room at all times unless an authorized employee is present.

      3. (3) Removal from, rearrangement of, or adding to the contents of the EPF, except by authorized employees, is prohibited.

      4. (4) An appropriate charge-out system shall be maintained in order to control the location of each EPF.

      5. (5) Release of information contained in the EPF is governed by requirements of the Privacy Act of 1974 and implementing regulations.

      6. (6) The EPF should be transferred with the OPF from the Administrative Service Team’s Human Resources Office to Washington Headquarters, or from the Washington Headquarters to the Administrative Service Team’s Human Resources Office. In addition, forward the complete EPF to other DOT agencies upon the employee’s transfer. If sent alone, the EPF should have one copy of Form FHWA-1055, Personnel Folder Transmittal Letter or facsimile.

    4. Release of information contained in the EPF. Employees shall have access to their EPF. Such access shall also be given to an employee's representative (designated in writing), as well as other officials who have a need for the documents in performance of their duties. All other requests for performance documents (such as Freedom of Information Act requests) shall be made in accordance with established procedures for disclosure of such records.

    5. Retention of EPF documents. Performance appraisals and supporting documents are not permanent records. Performance appraisal records are kept for four years, except those for Senior Executive Service members are to be kept for five years. The performance appraisal record includes all parts of the Form FHWA-1552, training courses related to performance, and all other documentation related to performance. The following exceptions apply:

      1. (1) performance appraisal records that are superseded through administrative or judicial procedure are to be destroyed;

      2. (2) when a performance related document is needed in connection with an on-going administrative, negotiated, quasi-judicial, or judicial proceeding, and it therefore continues to be retained in this system, it may be retained for as long as necessary beyond the retention schedule; and

      3. (3) screening and purging of the EPF shall be done at least once every year.

    6. Disposition of records. The most recent 4 years of performance records are forwarded with the OPF to another Executive Agency or to the National Personnel Records Center upon separation of the employee. Information in the EPF, other than the performance appraisal plan, should be destroyed or returned to the employee. If a former employee returns to FHWA, a new EPF shall be created unless the original file is still available.

  6. Is there other information regarding personnel records? The only personnel records maintained by FHWA that contain information about individuals are those which are relevant and necessary to accomplish the official personnel administration purposes of FHWA. There is limited duplication of official records. Certain notes of supervisors are not considered personnel records. These matters are discussed below.

    1. Work folders. In accordance with GRS 1, paragraph 18, operating or work folders or case files for employees (Personnel Work Folders) may be established which contain copies of official personnel documents under limited circumstances. For FHWA, these limitations mean:

      1. (1) Administrative Service Team Human Resources may establish work folders for those employees whose OPFs are maintained at the Washington Headquarters;

      2. (2) Division offices, geographically separate from the Human Resources Office which maintains the OPFs for employees of the field activity, may establish work folders for such employees;

      3. (3) Only one work folder in addition to the OPF may be established for any one employee. Thus, officials of field activities, contemplating the establishment of work folders or possessing existing work folders, should contact their servicing Human Resources office to ensure that no other work folder has been established;

      4. (4) The responsible official maintaining the work folder must insure that proper safeguards are installed to prevent unauthorized access. For retention purposes, work folders must conform to the provisions for temporary records in an OPF; and

      5. (5) Each responsible official should insure that no copies of official records are retained in work folders after the originals or copies have been purged from the OPF. When an employee leaves the office where the work folder is maintained, the work folder should be immediately forwarded to the office maintaining the OPF in order that it might be screened to insure that it contains no original documents that should have been permanently filed in the OPF. After screening, the work folder will be destroyed in 6 months.

    2. Operating folders. When duplicate copies of information from the OPF are not retrievable by individual name or by other individual identifying characteristics, such copies are not considered part of the FHWA personnel records systems. Thus, when appropriate and necessary, offices may retain copies of personnel documents filed by document type and organizational element, in addition to any copies maintained in work folders.

    3. Personal use documents. Information or documents, other than copies of official personnel records, that are maintained by supervisors or managers exclusively for their own personal use and used by them in performing their official duties, are not considered to be records within the meaning of the Privacy Act of 1974. Managers and supervisors should limit such notes, information, and documents related to individual employees to material essential to the conduct of FHWA activities, and they should rely upon the OPF or EPF for the official documentation. Any information which is maintained by supervisors and managers under this provision must be relevant and not under the control or dominion of FHWA. The individual maintaining such information is personally responsible for safeguarding it against unauthorized disclosure or use. Examples of such information include: personal telephone lists, data needed to support future personnel actions, and work schedules.

Page last modified on June 21, 2016
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