Recordkeeping, Part 1: What to Keep and for How Long

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Recordkeeping plays an essential role in the management of any company. An extensive range of information about employees must be preserved for numerous reasons. This includes the ability to facilitate the efficient and effective management of human resources, to defend employment decisions when the need arises, and to comply with numerous federal and state laws.

All records must be maintained for a mandatory minimum number of years. The time various from document to document, but in all cases, employers should ensure that records are stowed in a secure and safe place that is only accessible to authorized personnel. Once permitted to be discarded, care should be taken that they are destroyed in an appropriate manner, whether by shredding, completely erasing from digital storage, or otherwise.

The following is a detailed analysis of the various record categories requiring preservation:

Hiring Records

Hiring records include external ads and internal postings for open positions, job requests submitted to employment agencies, resumes, applications, interview evaluations, pre-employment tests and reference checks. Records for an individual one does decide to hire should be filed in their personnel file. If an employer does not hire the individual, they should store the records in an applicant file.

Documents pertaining to hiring records should be kept for a minimum of 2 years after the employment relationship has concluded, as driven by Title VII, FEHA, ADA and ADEA.

Employee Personnel Files

Employee personnel files should include the employee’s job title, classification and description. The file should also contain the job offer letter, performance observations and evaluations, promotions, demotions, attendance records, leave of absence notices, disciplinary notices, transfers, lay-offs and recalls, training, testing (including certificates), requests for reasonable accommodations and acknowledgements of company policy and handbook receipt.

The personnel files should be preserved in an exceptionally secure location for a duration of 3 years following termination of the employment relationship.

Employee Wage Records

Employee wage records include wage rate calculation tables, piece rates, individual employee’s hours and days, time cards, shift schedules, and any records clarifying wage differential between sexes.

Employers should preserve employee wage records for at least 4 years, in accordance with the California Labor Code, EPA (Equal Pay Act) and the FLSA (Fair Labor and Standards Act).

Payroll Records

Payroll records consist of name, date of birth, address, SSN, job definition, terms and conditions of employment, rates of pay, union and employee contracts, child labor certificates and notices, the start and end of each work week, total daily and pay period hours, total wages paid each payroll, net wages and deductions, meal periods and split-shift schedules.

Payroll records should be retained for at least 4 years following termination of the employment relationship.

Employee Polygraph Test

Though the Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) generally restricts the routine use of lie detector tests, they are used now and then such as in an employee theft investigation.

The law requires employers to save a copy of the statement delivered to employees stating the reason for testing, the incident under investigation, the loss endured by the employer, the notice delivered to a polygraph examiner naming the person or persons to be examined, the nature of the employee’s access to the person or property under investigation and all documentation relating to the actual testing.

A statement asserting that an exam was requested may be placed in the personnel files, but the remaining related documentation should be stored in a confidential and separate filing system for a minimum of 3 years.

As we always recommend with these sensitive and complex employment law, it is best to consult with a professional human resources consulting firm or specialist to review the policies and confirm your recordkeeping practices are in compliance.

In our next article, we will continue our investigation of the various records that require preservation, examine exceptions to standard recordkeeping practices and discover the consequences of negligent recordkeeping.

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