Document Retention: How Long Should I Retain My Employee/HR Documents?

Dustin Paschal here with Simon Paschal PLLC with your, I don’t want to call it the legal tip of the week because it hasn’t been weekly lately but your legal tip. Today we want to talk about retaining employment records. We always get asked by clients and at speeches we give, “How long do I need to keep the records that I have related to employees, or former employees or potential employees?” So, I’m going to go through some of those today.

Now there’s a ton of rules for what kind of records you have to keep so I’m not going to go through all of them. If you have some specific questions regarding records please feel free to reach out to us and we can help you out with that. But I’m going to go through some of the more common ones and these are generally based on whatever the law, the statute of limitations may be for a law issue in the employment world. We work from the statute of limitations to figure out what the retention period is. On top of that some laws have specific retention periods. So I’m not necessarily going to tell you in this video which of these retention periods is by law and which is based on the statute of limitations. Just take this as if you follow these you’re going to be protected from a legal standpoint on retaining records for employees.

Now there’s a lot of them so while I’d to have them memorized I don’t so I’m going to refer to my notes here. But with respect to resumes, and applications and records related to people that sought employment but that you ultimately did not hire you’re going to want to retain those records for three years from the date of decision. With respect to resumes, applications, related employment materials including interview notes and records and things for employees you did hire save those for four years following the date of termination for the employee at issue. And let me pause briefly to say you don’t necessarily have to retain these records in paper form they can be retained electronically but in some form or fashion you’re going to want to retain these records. With respect to background checks, drug test results, driving records, employment verifications, et cetera you’re going to want to retain those records for five years.

Now let’s go to specific employee records once you’ve hired them. Terminated employees with respect to the I9 you want to keep the I9 the later of three years from the date of hire or one year following the date of termination. So that’s how you want to keep the I9 form. With respect to any timekeeping documents, clock in clock out records, time sheets, compensation with respect to employees you want to retain those records for four years following the date of termination for the employee. FMLA and USERRA records you want to keep for three years following termination. Performance appraisal and disciplinary actions keep for four years following termination. Benefit records I’ll just lump those all together as one thing, let’s call them benefits records, you want to keep those for six years following the date of termination.

And then workers’ comp records you really want to save those for four years following the date of illness or injury but there’s a caveat there. If the illness or injury is related to hazardous materials you have to retain those records for 30 years. The reason that one is specifically so long is because the idea that sometimes these hazardous materials the illness that arises from them lies dormant for quite some time before it ever appears. So that’s the reason for the link there.

So I know I went through a lot there but you really have to look and make sure you’re keeping all these records so that if an employee comes after you later or if a government agency comes in with respect to an audit you have all these required records. So keep them paper form, electronic, however it’s best for your company, but make sure you’re keeping them. So there’s your legal tip. Thanks!


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