In the United States there are several Federal Government laws that force you to keep all sorts of documents for different periods of time, including but not limited to Title VII, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, FLSA, FMLA, ERISA, the Equal Pay Act (EPA) as well as OSHA.

Your job as a Records Manager starts before you actually hire anyone. In the “pre-employment” relationship, you actually need to save applications, resumes, reference checks, background checks, and job postings. This is to ensure fairness, non-discrimination, and equal opportunity for everyone.

During an employment relationship, you’ll need to keep all of the information in the new-hire package (including acknowledgements of policies and handbooks), the I-9, and medical related paperwork. Tracking HR documents is often handled by a document management solution like CartaHR. Document management software allows you to securely organize, track and report on employee records. Whether you are tracking documents electronically or in hard copy form, it is important to understand records keeping best practices.

In a paper-based records systems you should keep each of these separately; one file for the Personnel records, one for the I-9 records, and one for the Medical paperwork. Once the employment relationship has ended, records created as part of the separation should be filed within the personnel section of the file.

So what goes in to each of those files?

  • Personnel File Records – Applications, pre-employment tests, performance appraisals, rate changes, position changes, leaves, transfers, promotions, demotions, documentation of disciplinary actions and job descriptions
  • I-9 Records – The completed I-9 form and supporting documentation
  • Medical Records – Records related to work comp, FMLA, ADA, hiring, and drug testing

How long do we keep them?

  • Records in the Personnel File – 4 years after termination
  • I-9 forms – 3 years after the date of hire or 1 year after termination, whichever is later
  • Medical Records – Depending on whether the document relates to FMLA or HIPAA, 3 to 6 years
  • W-4 Forms – 4 years
  • Equal Pay – Any record relied upon to justify wage differentials between men and women — two years
  • Records under Title VII – 1 year
  • Payroll and Tax Records – Documents that include basic employee data like name, address, SSN, wage rate, number of hours worked daily or weekly deductions, allowances claimed and net wages – 4 years (some states require 6 years)

Note: there are no specific retention requirements under Lilly Ledbetter, however it is recommended that employers retain records for 5 years past termination

  • OSHA Logs – 5 years
  • COBRA – 6 years
  • Employee Benefit Plans – 6 years following the termination of the plan
  • Form 5500 and related correspondence – including all attached schedules, audited financial statements, and accountant opinions, as applicable – 6 years

Record retention is complex and time consuming. However, in addition to complying with various federal and state laws, keeping good, well-organized records can be very helpful in documenting and supporting your organization’s employment actions. The best way to ensure that your records are in good order is to establish and publish a record-retention policy.