The information provided here highlights some of the more important recordkeeping requirements that apply to most employers, regardless of industry. Employers should keep in mind that the time period for retaining records set forth in the various statutes are minimums. Since these records are critical to the employer if its compliance with federal or state law is questioned or if it must defend itself against employment-related litigation, employers may want to retain employment-related records for much longer periods of time. Complete and accurate records are often an employer's best defense to employment-related litigation and wage and hour complaints. In addition, some states have specific laws related to the maintenance of personnel files and other documents that may require longer retention periods.
Depending on the legal authority and the type of record, statutory retention requirements can vary from 1 year to 30 years after termination of employment. Keeping up with these individual requirements and establishing a workable "tickler" system to identify when and which records may be safely destroyed can be cumbersome, even for small workplaces. Therefore, if the availability of secure file storage space is not at issue, adherence to the following general safe harbor retention periods may be preferable to researching applicable state or federal law and determining the unique retention period required for each individual law, record type, and employee in question.
• Personnel records: 7 years after termination of employment.
• Medical and benefits records; 6 years as long as no toxic exposure occurred.
• Employment verification (I-9) records: 4 years.
• Hiring and ...