Records are filed in a employee’s Official Personnel Folder (OPF) to document events in an employee’s federal employment history. These records obviously have long term consequences for the employee and the federal government.
This column discusses why an employee’s OPF is vitally important for the employee – including for retirement purposes – and how employees can get a copy of their OPF and make changes in case there are errors or omissions.
The Function of the Federal Employee’s Official Personnel Folder
An employee’s OPF contains records and documents the federal government needs in order to make accurate decisions throughout the employee’s federal career. These records and documents do the following:
- Show that the employee’s federal appointment was valid. For example, the Appointment Affidavit and the Declaration for Federal Employment;
- Verify the employee’s military service credit for annual leave purposes, reduction-in-force, or retirement. For example, the employee’s DD 214 (Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty); Military Service Deposit Election;
- Establish an employee’s employment history. That is, the employee’s grades, occupations and salary. An example of this is Form SF 50 (Notification of Personnel Actions); and
- Record the employee’s choices under Federal benefit programs. Examples of this are the Health Benefits Registration Form or the Designation of Beneficiary under the Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) program.
Personnel folder documents are either long-term or temporary. Certain documents must never be filed in the OPF.
Long-term documents are records kept for the life of the OPF, usually 115 years from the employee’s date of birth.
Temporary documents are documents not kept for the life of OPF.
Prohibited documents are records that must never be replaced in an OPF. The prohibition may come from statues such as the Privacy Act or from regulations such as Title 29 (Code of Federal Regulations). An example is Standard Form 181 (Race and National Origin Identification).
The Electronic Official Personnel Folder (eOPF)
The eOPF is an electronic version of an employee’s paper OPF and a system for accessing the electronic folder online. The eOPF system combines document management with workflow capabilities. In short, the eOPF allows each employee to have an electronic personnel folder instead of a paper folder.
Benefits of an eOPF include:
1. immediate access to personnel forms and information for a geographically dispersed workforce;
2. email notification to an employee when documents are added to an employee’s eOPF;
3. multi-level secure environment with security rules for sensitive information;
4. no loss of official personnel documents due to filing and routing errors;
5. reduced costs associated with storage maintenance and retrieval of records;
6. electronic transfer of human resources (HR) data; and (7) integration with agency’s human resources information systems (HRIS).
HR specialists have read-write access to employees’ eOPF documents, but cannot modify the documents. eOPF system includes an audit trail that records when and why an individual has reviewed an eOPF.
Employees must contact their HR office or personnel department within the federal agency or organization they work for in order to access and use the eOPF. These offices will provide employees with information on how to access and how to use the eOPF.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) hosts the eOPF systems for all federal government agencies. Nightly incremental backups are conducted. This includes all new documents and any related information added on a given day. Full systems-wide backups occur weekly. OPM performs complete off-site storage of the entire data repository on a weekly basis.
EOPF has a helpdesk called OPF Helpdesk. The helpdesk’s preferred method of contact is by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Employees who use the helpdesk will need the following information to access it: Their
- full name;
- contact information (phone and email);
- agency’s URL impacted -the link to the Web site;
- Web server number found on the bottom left of the accept screen; and (6) complete description of the problem.
Getting a Copy of the OPF
Current federal employees should contact their HR Office within their agency for access to their OPF and SF 50. Former employees may get a copy of their most recent SF-50 or a complete copy of their OPF by requesting, in writing, a copy from the National Archives and Records Administration, the National Personnel Records Center located at 411 Boulder Blvd, Valmeyer, IL 62295.
Individuals should identify the documents or information needed and explain the purpose of their request, including their: (1) full name; (2) date of birth; (3) Social Security number; (4) last employing agency, including duty station and approximate dates of employment; and (5) signature. The fax number to request a copy is 618-935-3014.
Employees can obtain their military records by going to the National Archives Center website at https://www.archives.gov/st-louis/military-personnel/. A federal employee may need to access his or her military records in order to prove active duty military service. Proof of active duty service will allow an employee to make a military deposit and in so doing will enable him or her to get credit for CSRS or FERS service.
Errors in the eOPF
While every effort has been made to ensure that the information in an employee’s eOPF is correct, errors can occur. Employees who discover errors or omissions (for example, a missing SF 50 showing an updated higher annual salary) in their eOPF should contact their agency’s human resource servicing office and report the error or omission. They should then followup and make sure that the error and omission in their eOPF has been addressed and fixed.