Employee Records: Which Ones to Save and for How Long

Nov. 15, 2017 –

Yes, our litigious society might be forcing you to be paranoid about employee records. This means your human resources is probably burdened in recordkeeping. The paperwork can be overwhelming.

You don’t want to keep unnecessary employee records. Nor do you want to make a rash decision on whether to destroy records. As in all business decision-making – when in doubt – don’t.

If you aren’t able to supply relevant documentation, you’ll pay a heavy price. In some cases, you’ll even be forced to give the job back to a nonperforming or toxic employee.

Therefore, use best practices with HR records to guard against legal risks.

Including the duration for each, here are the types of records to keep:

1. Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

Under FLSA, there are compliance issues:

For a minimum of two years, you must retain all records pertaining to basic employment.

That includes all payment and deduction details and timecards; billing and shipping records for customers, and wage-rate tables.

For at least three years, you must keep all agreements, certificates, collective bargaining agreements, employment contracts, notices, payroll records, and sales and purchase records.

2. Equal Pay Act (EPA) 

Under the EPA, you must retain several documents for two years: Why different wages are paid to different sexes. That includes collective bargaining agreements, job evaluations, wage rates, and seniority and merit systems.

3. Discrimination – Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

For at least one year, to avoid unnecessary problems associated with the various types of discrimination  and the EEOC, you must kept all employee-termination records.

For at least one year, you must retain records pertaining to benefit plans.

For six tips for micro-companies and 13 strategies for larger organizations to avoid EEOC migraines, see How to avoid EEOC Discrimination Suits.

4. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

If you have fewer than 50 employees, your business is not subject to FMLA. However, you might be subject to your state’s family and medical leave laws.

If you’re subject to FMLA, for three years you must keep the following:

  • Payroll records
  • All FMLA-employee data; even for leaves lasting for less than 8 hours or a day’s work
  • Copies of FMLA notices distributed to employees
  • Paperwork regarding benefits, and policies and practices for both paid and unpaid leave
  • Employee benefit payment records
  • Documents from disputes
  • Keep separate from personnel files all medical history documents pertaining to medical certifications and re=certifications

5. I-9 records

Under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), you must retain an employee’s I-9 Employee Eligibility Verification form for three years after the person is hired.

Should the employee stay with your company for three years, IRCA dictates you must keep the person’s form for at least one year after the person departs from your business.

6. Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)

For five years under OSHA, you must keep all documents of employment-related illnesses and injuries.

Note: For 30 years, you must keep records for problems such as for toxic exposure.

7. Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)

For six years, you must keep records of benefit plans under ERISA. That, of course, means summary descriptions and annual reports.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related sources of information:

Avoid EEOC Legal Hassles over Unpaid Leave Requirements — You might want to review your current human resource policies. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has continued to push employers on unpaid leave under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Best Employee-Handbook Values to Avoid Legal Issues — Neither you, nor your company and nor should your employees be relying on an employee handbook with illegal or antiquated policies. Here are employee-handbook values to consider.

10 Best Practices for an Online Employee Handbook — Companies that don’t convert their employee handbooks into electronic documents are missing noteworthy opportunities in human resources. Conversely, businesses that switch to a digital format accomplish at least five HR goals.

For Best HR Performance Reviews, 10 Sample Goal Phrases — A well-written set of performance goals work to motivate employees and help them to focus better on their responsibilities. They must be written with the right phrasing so they inspire performance and don’t invite costly lawsuits.

Employer Tips: How to Deal with a Visit from ICE — A visit from ICE – the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement – is a cause for concern. Your response sets the stage for communication, either effectively defending your company or possible negotiations and a settlement with ICE.

“Care and diligence bring luck.”

-Thomas Fuller



Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.


Why Companies Fall into the Management Lawsuit Trap

News headlines continue to show there are a myriad of ways managers set themselves up for lawsuits. Small and many big companies are ripe for EEOC complaints.

The majority of lawsuits targeting management usually stem from a half dozen poor practices.

You’ll get into trouble using these six bad practices:

thinking-272677_12801. Adherence to policies and procedures

Time and again, businesses are sued because managers fail to comply with company policy manuals.

Principals should always review policy manuals with managers, and get a signed receipt indicating that they understand policies.

Yes, any manager who strays from policy should be disciplined.

Only then, the managers should review the handbook with non-exempt staff.

2. Following discrimination and harassment policies

Periodically remind managers to be diligent to prevent discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Their employment status will be affected if they fail to adhere to policies, or if they to act professionally should policy violations occur.

3. Poor management of employee problems

Make certain managers know how to respond – not react in a knee-jerk fashion to employee problems. That means thinking about how to respond in all situations.

Typical worker problems include attendance, alcoholism drug use, and insubordination.

4. Retaliation or the appearance of being retaliatory

For example, courts frown on transfers if they look like a demotion. It looks suspicious if an employee suddenly receives an unsatisfactory performance appraisal or is not treated equally like other workers.

5. Terminations

Courts look to make certain terminations are handled well legally, and with civility and fairness. Typically, there are three key HR questions you must answer to the courts’ satisfaction when you terminate workers.

6. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Typical problems result from FMLA misunderstandings over attendance policy, eligibility, notice requirements and worker reinstatement.

From the Coach’s Corner, for more strategies, here are related articles:

How to avoid EEOC Discrimination Suits — If you’re an out-of-work attorney, the good news is that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is on a hiring binge. The EEOC’s Web site also indicates the agency is recruiting for investigators to handle employment discrimination complaints. Of course, mediators, administrative support, managers, and IT personnel are also in demand. That means federal employment discrimination complaints are sky-high — a sad commentary for businesses and public agencies that are large enough for a human resources department.

21 Quick Tips to Avoid the Dark Side of Management — It’s true that not all complaints are valid. Many aren’t. Some originate from mere office politics. Managing employees is difficult. So the purpose here is not to indict the managers who are professional assiduous, empathetic, good motivators and make sure their workplace stays out of legal trouble. Here’s how to avoid HR troubles.

Human Resources: 12 Errors to Avoid in Evaluations — How should you properly evaluate employees? Make sure you are careful to avoid errors in evaluations. Naturally, you want to praise good performance and discourage bad. Commonly, there are 12 errors that managers make in performance evaluations.

Management — 4 Mindsets for Leadership in Performance Reviews — Are you nervous at the thought of giving employee-performance reviews? You’re not alone. Your employees aren’t exactly thrilled, either. Typically, employees aren’t convinced they can get valid feedback. If they’ve experienced poor managers, they likely dread the performance-review process or are skeptical of the outcome.

3 Often Asked Questions – Hiring and Laying Off Workers — Employers often ponder hiring and firing in this uncertain economy. So if you’re like many employers, coping with a tepid economic environment, you might need to re-think your approach to human resources, too. As you analyze your situation, wisdom and courage are your best friends in addressing three typical questions about guidelines in this uncertain economy.

Cutting Costs — 9 Best Practices to Avoid Making Reactionary Decisions — In chaotic times, it’s common for businesspeople to be fearful and reactionary when they feel they must cut expenses. But entrepreneurs need to be unemotional so that they make decisions that will bolster their objectives. They can take the emotion out of their decision-making — by eliminating stress factors – if their priorities are clearly defined with values. This is facilitated by documenting goals and priorities.

“Good management consists in showing average people how to do the work of superior people.”
-John D. Rockefeller


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.