Have you ever been assigned the task of managing and retaining personnel records? Maybe you’re a human resource professional and this is part of your job. If you’ve ever been in this situation, chances are you’re aware that it’s hard to decide what to keep and for how long, but keep in mind, following state and federal regulations is essential to protect your company.
So, where do you begin?
- Employment ads – Federal law says you must retain these for one year. However, to create some history of your company’s hiring process, it’s recommended these files are retained for three years.
- Job applications and/or resumes – This will depend on how large your company is but, as a general rule of thumb, for employees you hire, retain their applications or resumes for a year.
- I-9 forms – Once an employee has signed these forms, you must retain them for three years after the date the employee was hired or one year after an employee is no longer with your company.
- Employee handbook receipts – Retain all acknowledgements that the employee has read the handbook for at least three years after an employee is no longer with your company.
- Performance evaluations – Evaluations must be retained at a minimum for one year after the date of the review. For employees who have been with your company for many years, it’s recommended you retain their evaluations for approximately seven years.
- Miscellaneous files pertaining to overall performance – Any notes on attendance, complaints from customers or co-workers, as well as awards for excellent performance should be retained. These types of files must be kept anywhere from one to three years, but it’s recommended to hang onto them while the employee is with your company and then three years after they have left.
- Wage records – Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, records relating to payroll, bonuses and payroll deductions must be retained for three years but, depending on your state’s tax laws, it may be longer.
- Workplace investigations –By law, these files should be kept for three years. It’s recommended they be kept the entire term of any employee involved with the investigation, plus three years after any investigation.
- Other forms – Other forms companies are required to retain include FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) leave forms, OSHA injury logs and disability files. For FMLA and disability files, companies must retain these for approximately one year, however, many companies keep these files for the term of employment, plus three years. OSHA injury logs must be retained for five years after the date of the injury, but you’ll want to double check which standards apply to your business as some injury records have retention periods up to 30 years.
It’s always a good idea as you work through this process of what to keep and what to discard to consult with your legal, accounting and records management team because regulations vary between states and industries.