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Q. How long do I have to keep employees’ personnel files after their terminations?

In Ohio, employers should preserve personnel files for six years after an employee leaves an organization. Under Ohio Revised Code section 4112.99, an employee has six years to file a discrimination lawsuit for all types of discrimination other than age.

Because of this long statute of limitations, companies should not alter, destroy or dispose of any employee files or records until that time period expires. Create a written retention policy to ensure everyone understands this.

The potential penalties for the premature alteration, destruction or disposal of any employee’s files or records are severe. For example, if a terminated employee files a lawsuit and you can’t locate the employee’s personnel file, a court could bar you from presenting evidence that poor performance led to the employee’s termination. The court might also create an inference, binding for the case, that the employee was in fact a good employee and that the performance problems did not exist. If a court believes you willfully disposed of documents to hide evidence, it may even go so far as to enter judgment in the employee’s favor.

Courts take these obligations seriously. So should you.

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