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HR spring cleaning: Employment document retention guidelines

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in Office Management,Records Retention

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.

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.

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.

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