How Long Should You Keep Employee Records?

Don’t throw paperwork out too soon!

One of the big things about Human Resources is all of the paperwork. Even if your paperwork is primarily electronic, it still takes up space. Whether your employee records are stored in files in a cabinet or take up space on a hard drive, you probably do not need to hang on to them forever – or do you?

Here are the basic guidelines for record keeping in HR. Keep in mind that laws may vary by state. In some cases, state and Federal laws may conflict. If you run into this, keep records based on the longer requirement. It is better to keep your records longer than you have to than not long enough.

Hiring Records
Hiring records, from resumes and applications to interview notes and job postings, need to be kept for one year after the decision to hire an individual was made. If you interview someone and the hiring process drags out for two months, the clock does not start ticking until the final hiring decision is made. It is important to keep these records in the event that anyone ever questions your hiring decision. This can help you to prove that you did not discriminate in any way, shape, or form.

Payroll Records
Payroll records, including time cards, must be maintained for a minimum of three years, or five years after termination, regardless of reason. It is important that you have record of how much each employee was paid and how much they worked for their entire time at your company. Also include how you calculated pay (salary, commission, piecework, overtime or hourly pay).

Health/Pension Benefits Information
Keep records of your health or pension benefits for a minimum of six years. If you have employees who are eligible for COBRA, you should also keep their records for six years.

Employee I-9 Form
Keep employee I-9 Forms stored separately from your personal records for three years after you hire them or one year after termination.

FMLA Records
If an employee requests an FMLA, you need to have a paper trail even if you deny their leave. Keep track of any employee’s leave, including when it began and how long it lasted. Hold on to these records for three years.

Drug Test Records
Drug test records should be maintained for one year – whether they are issued as pre-employment tests or random drug testing. If you are subject to the department of transportation regulations, however, you need to keep drug test records for five years.

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