**Editors note: This article has been updated for 2018 HERE.
In addition to being Bath Safety Month and Tubers & Dried Fruits Month (no, really), January has also been designated as Get Organized Month by the National Association of Professional Organizers. And it’s a natural time of year for businesses to go through their records and files and see what they can get rid of.
But employee records can pose a variety of issues in terms of what can and can’t safely be shredded: the cost of record storage, the potential legal cost of finding all that information again in the event of a lawsuit, even federal statutes about how long certain records must be kept.
Fortunately, our friend Diane Geller of Gentry Locke Rakes & Moore, LLP has provided this handy chart to show how long you need to keep different sorts of employee records:
|Type of Documents||Specific Documents||Retention|
|Pre-Employment Information||Job advertisements, applications.Resumes and related employment materials interview notes and records, background checks.
Preliminary drug test results, driving records.
Employment verifications, letters of reference.
All records relating to selection procedures and tests administered.
|1 year for applicants who were not hired.(The paperwork for the hired applicants will be shifted to the General Personnel Records.)|
|I-9 Forms||I-9 forms and copies of supporting documents.||Longer of 3 years from hiring or 1 year after termination. Note: these should be maintained in a separate file.|
|Employee Medical Records||Doctor notes, FMLA forms, fitness for duty and other medical exams, drug tests and the like — and possibly workers compensation files.||4 years after termination, unless workers compensation files are not segregated.Medical records should be maintained in a separate file with access on a need-to-know basis only. Workers’ compensation records should be segregated into a separate file as they need to be kept for 30 years after the employee is separated in order to ensure compliance with OSHA.|
|Compensation Records||Federal and state payroll taxes, FLSA and EPA records, wages, benefits, bonuses, etc.||4 years after termination. (While certain documents are only required for 3 years, the fact that tax information is required for 4 years will allow consistency.)|
|Benefit Plan Records||Plan documents, election forms, eligibility determination records, notices, etc.||6 years as required by ERISA.|
|General Personnel Records||All other records related to employment, personnel evaluations, disciplinary records, etc.||3 years, unless the employee has a written employment contract. If contractual, then you must comply with the statute of limitations in your state related to contracts (generally up to 6 years).|
|Government Compliance Reports||EEO-1, VETS 100Affirmative Action Plans
OSHA related records
|4 years after filing.2 years after close of the applicable year.
5 years after the year to which the records relate. This includes OSHA Forms 101/200/300/300A—30 years if employer is required to conduct medical examinations, monitor for exposure to hazardous materials or chemicals or monitor significant adverse reactions to health of employees, those records must be kept for the duration of employment plus 30 years.
|Government Compliance Reports, contd.||Benefit Plan Reports – IRS Form 5500Tax Reports
Motor Carrier Safety Testing
|6 years4 years from the date the tax is due or paid.
5 years unless otherwise specified for controlled substance and alcohol use testing program for its commercial drivers
|Training, Selection Materials, Handbooks, Policies||6 years beyond period in use|
|Litigation Hold Matters||No statutory requirement regarding retention after a formal complaint (i.e., a complaint that involves either a federal agency, an arbitration or a court action) is resolved, it is our recommendation that records relating to these “concluded” suits only be kept for a period of five years after the resolution of the complaint.|
Now, bear in mind, these are just recommendations. Not only are they not the same as actual legal advice, they may not be the best choice for your company. What would be better? Crafting your own document retention policy, complete with the specific government requirements for the types of employee records you keep and your individual requirements for your business’s unique needs, based on your expertise or that of your legal advisor.
Such a policy would include a designated procedure for disposing of documents (shredding is recommended), and a regular schedule of when documents should be reviewed and purged. Ideally, the document review would take place every quarter, but it should at least take place once a year. And perhaps the best time for that is January. You know, National Polka Music Month (really).Share this Post