Follow specific record retention guidelines to protect your company
These are general record retention guidelines based on generally applicable federal statutes. Remember that different state laws or different operational requirements may have different record retention guidelines.
- Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act: Keep employee history documents from one year of the date of the record, action or termination. Record retention guidelines include records relating to people you did not hire. If you did not hire somebody and they gave you a resume, you need to keep that resume for at least a year. For example, the EEOC’s statute of limitations says that an employee has 300 days to make a complaint about discriminatory action. Any charges of discrimination or any documents relating to discrimination charges need to be kept until you finally close the charge, finally settle, or take a lawsuit to trial. Do not get rid of anything involving the employee related to the charge until then.
- Fair Labor Standards Act: The FLSA sets minimum wage and overtime regulations. It may be the most document-intensive of the federal statutes, and record retention guidelines are therefore very important. For three years, you need to keep the vital statistics on a person: their name, address, telephone number, and other basic information you have about the person. Under the FLSA, you have the ability to choose what your workweek will be, whether that’s Monday to Monday or Wednesday to Wednesday, however you want to break it up. Record retention guidelines therefore include information on the workweek you have chosen you must keep for three years, too. For three years, keep a person’s rate of pay, hours worked and any records related to earnings and overtime. Most of this information is included on the employee’s pay stub.
- Family and Medical Leave Act: Record retention guidelines say that any records relating to the FMLA need to be kept for three years. This includes hours worked, daily and weekly and dates or hours of FMLA leave. Keep a log showing how much FMLA leave a person has taken so that you don’t give them too much or cut them off too soon. Record retention guidelines also include any documents involving your correspondence with an employee on FMLA leave.
- The Age Discrimination and Employment Act: Any payroll records need to be kept for three years. Any personnel records need to be kept from one year from the date of ADEA-related action. Employee benefit plans, seniority systems and written merit plans need to be kept for the duration of the plan, plus one year. Any records related to a lawsuit, EEOC charge or other enforcement action needs to be kept until there’s a final disposition.
- The Equal Pay Act: Keep any pay records for three years. Any collective bargaining agreements if you’re a union employer need to be kept for at least three years from the date they expire. Any documents explaining a wage differential between people of different sexes need to be kept for at least two years.
- Executive Order 11246: The documentation of good faith compliance needs to be kept for the actual program. The documentations need to be kept for two years. It’s also prudent to update these annually. Personnel or employment records need to be kept for two years. If you are a government contractor subject to these regulations, it’s possible that instead of keeping your employment records for just one year, you may have to keep them around for an extra year. This way, they will be available if there is some sort of a complaint.
- Immigration law and OSHA: Keep your I-9 forms for the longer three years or one year after termination. If a person works for you for one year, you need to keep the I-9 form for three years after the date that you created it. However, if that same person works for you for four years, you need to keep the I-9 form for the duration of their employment which is four years plus one year after their termination. So, in the case of that employee, you would have kept the I-9 for a total of five years. The OSHA forms need to be kept for five years after the end of the calendar year that they apply to. Records of medical exams used to monitor exposure to hazardous material need to be kept for the duration of the employment plus 30 years. When record retention guidelines for medical records are unclear, the fall-back policy is to just keep these records for employment plus 30 years. Hopefully, you don’t need them that long, but it is very safe to keep them anyway.
Edited Remarks From “Personnel Document Retention: What to Keep, How to Keep It and Why It Matters” by Matt Gilley
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