Records to KeepAnd How to Keep Them

July 25, 2000
For the small employer, employee record keeping is hopefully not an adventurous task.

But what records should you keep and how should you keep them? So many companies keep either too much information, the wrong information or none of the correct information. HRMS conversion is a nightmare if you don't have your records in order.

Here are some guidelines, some of which are mandated and some of which are HR norms:

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 law) vary but here are some recommended minimum lengths:

  • Hiring Records (not related to hired employees): One year
  • Basic Employee Information (including I-9): Four years from termination
  • Payroll and Benefits Information: Five years
  • Employment Actions (firing, demotions, promotions): Four years
  • Job-related Illnesses and Injuries: Five years
  • Medical Exams: 30 years
  • Toxic substance and blood-borne pathogen exposure records: 30 years

Link to listings of HRMS articles and vendors.

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.