In the name of organization, HR professionals and managers alike have been known to accidentally discard a document, whether paper or electronic, that they shouldn't have. So, in your quest to clean out overflowing file cabinets or email inboxes for the new year, take your time and follow these guidelines.
What to store? When to shred? Use this guide to help you decide — Personnel Records: What to Keep, What to Toss
Double-check any document related to the following topics, which have specific retention periods mandated by law (examples included):
- Hiring. Under Title VII, job applications and résumés must be kept for one year from the date of submission, and pre-employment tests must be kept for one year from the date of the test. The Immigration Reform and Control Act requires Form I-9 to be retained for three years from the date of hire or one year after termination, whichever is later.
- Termination. Documents related to layoff, recall, and reduction-in-force must be kept for one year from the date of the action as per Title VII.
- Promotion and demotion. Title VII also stipulates that records of promotions and demotions must be kept for one year from the date of the action.
- Work hours. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, time sheets or time cards must be kept for two years after the record is made.
- Leave. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, records of the dates of leave taken under the Act must be kept for three years.
- Accommodation. Requests for reasonable religious accommodation must be kept for one year after the record is made as per Title VII. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, requests for disability-related reasonable accommodation must also be kept for one year after the record is made.
- Training. Under Title VII, documents related to the selection of employees for training opportunities must be kept for one year.
Don't be damned if you do OR damned if you don't. With Personnel Records: What to Keep, What to Toss, you'll know — in plain English — the minimum retention period under federal law for each type of personnel record. When it's up, they're out! Access complete records retention guidelines in Personnel Records: What to Keep, What to Toss.
To ensure that emailed documents don't fall through the retention cracks, avoid using your inbox as a catch-all folder. This is crucial if your company has a system of deleting all messages contained in employees' inboxes after a certain number of days.
What you should do is create folders based on business needs. Turn off any automatic deletion features for these folders; consult with IT if necessary. Read a message, act on it as necessary (e.g., answer a question, follow a directive), and then delete or move to a specific folder. Remember, sort emails according to subject matter, and not subject line.
You need a system you can trust. A foolproof system. A clear, step-by-step system that makes sure you can keep what matters, toss what doesn’t and maintain everything efficiently.
Fortunately, you don’t have to invent that system through trial and error. It already exists and it’s already been tested by HR teams and lawyers alike and gotten high marks from both.
The companies using this keep-and-toss system breathe easy. Personnel records never pile up, penalties never arise and when lawsuits do, they have exactly the right documents to defend themselves and stop the meter on legal costs — fast. Their secret? A foolproof system...
Get a foolproof records retention system for yourself and your organization. Get Personnel Records: What to Keep, What to Toss today!
- Get it in writing! You need consistent, persistent documentation
- Calling your employment attorney: When it's needed, when it's not
- Don't tell employee's new boss about his prior complaints
- How to legally make the digital leap to electronic HR records
- Watch for New Prevailing-Wage Rules for Building Services Workers