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HR record retention guidelines

The HR department of a company is responsible for retaining and destroying employee records in accordance with not only the company’s policies, but also according to the federal and state laws that govern record retention.

Outlined below is a typical HR department’s operating procedures for retention of personnel records together with the destruction of any documents when the retention period has passed. If your organization’s retention procedure is not of a sufficient time-frame for the state it operates in, then the state’s requirements would supersede the company policy.

The HR department is responsible for maintaining both the employee records as well as the government compliance reports.

Maintenance of Employee Records

The following information regarding the employees should be maintained in separate personnel files:

  • All pre-employment information
  • I-9 forms
  • Benefits plan and medical records of employees
  • Health and safety records
  • General employee personnel records

When it comes to government compliance reports, these are maintained in a reverse chronological order and are filed separately from the employee records listed above.

Destruction of Applicant and Employee Records

All paper employee records as well as confidential employee data maintained by an organization’s HR department have to be destroyed by shredding once the retention dates have passed. This procedure applies to all employee records and not just those that are governed by Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA).

Application documents that have been submitted by applications for employment in an organization also have to be shredded.

Employee records include both paper as well as electronic records. The HR department is to work in conjunction with the IT department regularly, but not less than two times a year to review and purge relevant electronic records.

Retention of Terminated Employee Records

Those employees who have terminated together with the applicants’ records have the following retention periods:

Pre-employment records:

  • Resumes, applications, and any related employment materials, inclusive of interview notes and records for applicants who were not hire: 3 years
  • Resumes, applications, and any related employment materials, inclusive of interview notes and records for employees: 4 years after termination date
  • Background checks, driving records, drug test results, company employment verifications, reference letters or any related documents: 5 years

Employee records:

  • I-9 forms of terminated employees: 3 years from the date of hiring or 1 year after their termination
  • Job history, compensation, timekeeping records: 4 years after the date of termination
  • USERRA and FMLA and leave records: 3 years after the date of termination
  • Performance appraisal and records of disciplinary action: 4 years after the date of termination
  • Benefit records: 6 years after the date of termination
  • Workers’ compensation claims: 30 years after the date of illness or injury

Compliance reports and records:

  • State New Hire Reports: 1 year after filing of report
  • Annual Affirmative Action Plans: 2 years after closing of AAP year
  • Form 5500: 6 years after filing of report
  • Federal and State tax reports: 4 years after filing of report