How Long Must HR Keep Employee Records?

by Evil HR Lady on November 13, 2015

One of the big things about Human Resources is that we have tons of paperwork. Tons and tons and tons. Granted, a lot of it is electronic these days, but the principle still remains. HR does record keeping. And, we need to keep those records, but for how long?

Here are basic guidelines for HR record keeping. Remember, though, that state laws may vary from these guidelines. If state laws and Federal laws are in conflict, always keep the records based on whichever requirement is longer.

To keep reading, click here: How Long Must HR Keep Employee Records?

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous November 13, 2015 at 2:44 pm

Thanks for the info. Many different time frames depending on the type of document. The ones that are challenging to implement are x years after termination. This is a case-by-case retention time frame that is challenging to standardize. Is there an overriding “safe” approach, let’s say a 7 year retention policy (similar to tax records), that a company could implement for all its HR records, and a company should be fine?

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Roger Rabbit November 15, 2015 at 2:03 am

The issue with creating a retention policy that keeps records longer than is required is that the longer a record is stored the more it has the potential to work against you and the less it has the potential to help you.

When documents are requested during the discovery phase of litigation, the purpose is to find incriminating evidence against you, not so the other side can show how nice you are. If you have records that that can, rightly or wrongly, tell a story of discrimination, favoritism or anything else the other side will exploit those. If instead of keeping records for one year you keep them for seven years, then the story can be magnified. It’s possible that with old records you did have a problem and then corrected it so it no longer exists but because you have a blanket retention policy of seven years, you still have incriminating evidence.

All my attorneys over the years have advised me that we need to keep records for the full retention period required and we should immediately destroy them upon retention period expiration, unless the records are part of an ongoing legal case.

Sometimes there are overlapping requirements for the same types of records so you need to consult your attorneys to find out what is the retention period for each document type, create a retention policy that includes the different types and their retention period and then adhere to it. Depending on your systems this may not be that difficult: when we put paper documents in offsite storage the boxes are marked with a destroy date and the documents can be retrieved up until that date. Online records similarly can have retention periods built in to the data type.

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Executive Careers November 22, 2015 at 5:31 pm

With the application of technology and better archiving / electronic storage techniques, it should be possible to keep a continuous archive for every employee. The infrastructure is in place, but it often depends on how often the records need updating and the resource to manage this process

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