Records to Keep And How to Keep Them

August 8, 2000
As an HR professional, you know how mind-numbing it can be to realize how much DATA an employee can produce. From resumes to performance reviews, even a short-time employee can create quite a file. If you're looking for ways to clean up all that paper, here are some guidelines on what should be kept and for how long.

Each of the following should be in separate files:

  • Information that can affect one's employment, such as applications, resumes, performance reviews, disciplinary actions and training records. This is generally referred to as the employee's file and is most often made available for inspection by the employee upon request, so it is best not to clutter up this file with information that is not employment related. You may also keep compensation and benefits information in this folder, if only to keep it handy for reference.

  • I-9 Forms. These are not required in a separate file, but may be convenient if requested by Department of Labor inspectors. If you do your own internal payroll, a good suggestion is to keep these with tax withholding records.

  • Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) records. By law, these cannot be used for employment status issues and shouldn't be part of the employee's file.

  • Medical information, such as pre-employment health exams and workers compensation medical evaluations.

How long should you keep these records? Again, practices (and state laws) vary but here are some recommended minimum lengths:

Hiring Records (not related to hired employees): 1 year

Basic Employee Information (including I-9): 4 years from termination

Payroll and Benefits Information: 5 years

Employment Actions (firing, demotions, promotions): 4 years

Job-related Illnesses and Injuries: 5 years

Medical Exams: 30 years

Toxic substance and blood-borne pathogen exposure records: 30 years

For the larger companies, the cutting edge in employee recordkeeping is "going paperless." A couple of options are:

  • Online collection: applications, resumes, benefits enrollments, performance reviews can all be collected via computer-enabled technologies. Examples are through web sites, workstations, interactive voice response (telephonic) or free-standing kiosks. Most custom or high-end HRIS products encourage through their design the use of these technologies.

  • Optical scanning. This option is best for the company that may need to keep older paper records while transitioning to a more online approach. Many document storage companies like Eastman Storage and FileNet have sophisticated systems for every need. Keep in mind that you still need to dedicate staff for this option.

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The information and forms contained in this feature are intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion.