Employment Records: What You Should Know

Shredding Employment Records

A human resources department is privy to a great deal of private and confidential information. It is important to safeguard your employee records and to dispose of them securely when it is time to purge them. Does your company have a records retention policy in place? Your policy should include a list of records, where they are stored, and how long they should be kept. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requires employers to keep all employment records for at least one year from the employee’s date of termination.

While the following list is not definitive and is provided for informational purposes only, the list includes many of the legal requirements for the retention of staff records. (Because employment laws and regulations vary by state, always seek legal counsel and review your state’s requirements to determine if your document retention policy fulfills all legal obligations.)

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
  • Retain basic employment and earning records like timecards, wage-rate tables, shipping and billing records, and records of additions to or deductions from wages for at least two years.
  • Retain payroll records, certificates, agreements, notices, collective bargaining agreements, employment contracts, and sales and purchase records for at least three years.
Equal Pay Act
  • In addition to the payroll records FLSA requires, all records explaining different wages paid to employees of different sexes should be retained for at least two years. This documentation could include wage rates, job evaluations, seniority and merit systems, and collective bargaining agreements.
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
  • Keep all payroll records for three years. Additionally, keep on file any employee benefit plan (such as pension and insurance plans) and any written seniority or merit system for the full period the plan or system is in effect and for at least one year after its termination.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • If your company is covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), it must retain the following records for three years:
    – Basic payroll data
    – Dates FMLA leave is taken, including hours of leave for times of less than a full day
    – Copies of written notices given to employees as required by the FMLA
    – Documents describing benefits, policies, and practices regarding paid and unpaid leave
    – Premium payment records for employee benefits
    – Records of disputes over the designation of leave as FMLA
    – Records relating to medical certifications, recertifications or medical histories created for FMLA purposes, kept in separate files from the usual personnel files
Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)
  • Retain records of job-related injuries and illnesses for five years; some records, however, such as those covering toxic substance exposure, are required to be held for 30 years.

If one does not already exist, human resources departments should create a records retention policy and require all staff to adhere to it. Personnel records should be restricted to factual information regarding an employee’s performance, knowledge, skills, abilities or behavior. Non-factual information should not be placed in personnel files. The opinions, unfounded gossip, rumors, questions, allegations not pursued, or other commentaries from supervisors or staff should be excluded from records retention. The positive reports of an employee’s employment history should be included, too, since oftentimes personnel records note negative reports and omit positive experiences and accomplishments. An accurate employee record should contain both if applicable.

Information including employee social security numbers or information about an employee’s protected classifications such as age, race, gender, national origin, disability, marital status, religious beliefs should be stored in a confidential file, not in personnel files.

Files on Shelf

Other Types of Records

The following types of records are examples of information that should not be included in personnel records:

  • Medical information should be placed in a medical file.
  • Payroll information should be filed in payroll files.
  • Supervisory documentation should be kept in management files kept by the supervisor. Any notes or reports made for the purpose of managing an employee’s work, reviewing performance, setting goals, and/or providing management feedback should be filed in private files held by the manager or supervisor.
  • All investigation documentation of employee complaints, witness interviews, employee interviews, findings, attorney recommendations, and resolution should be kept in investigation files stored separately from personnel records. Documentation of follow-up to guarantee no retaliation has occurred should also be kept in separate investigation files.
  • I-9 forms should be filed in an I-9 file.
  • Background check reports including criminal history, credit reports, and so forth, and the results of drug testing should be kept in a separate file or medical file to which supervisors, managers, and the employee have no access.
  • Employee Equal Opportunity records such as self-identification forms and government reports should not be kept in a personnel file and should not be accessible to managers or supervisors. (Heathfield, 2019)

When records are no longer needed, your company’s record retention policy should include how to dispose of them. It is important to dispose of information securely in order to protect your company, as well as current and former staff. Contact Sierra Shred for a free quote for your company’s secure document disposal.

Works Cited
Business Management Daily. (2017, November 8). Personnel records what to store, when to shred, and 7 laws you must comply with. Retrieved from Business Management Daily: https://www.businessmanagementdaily.com/12905/personnel-records-what-to-store-when-to-shred-and-7-laws-you-must-comply-with
Heathfield, S. M. (2019, June 25). What Employers Should Not Keep in Personnel Records. Retrieved from The Balance Careers: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-employers-should-not-keep-in-personnel-records-1918640