Employee Records: Which Ones to Save and for How Long



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


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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.