October 18, 2016

Please, Please, Please Keep Me

By Paul Bieber

Now what? Is this a political blog today? Is it about a player being traded from one baseball team to another? Or, is it an educational blog on how long you need to keep records, forms and data in your company? Yep, you guessed it. Let’s see how long you need to keep stuff.

Some quiet winter day, you decide to clean out the file cabinets. If you have a trained HR person, go to them first. They should now what to keep and what is OK to toss. On the other hand, if you are like like most glaziers and small businesses, you are the HR person, so read on.

  • Job descriptions – two years after their original writing.
  • Help wanted ads, either in a paper or electronically created – one year after the posting of the ad.
  • Employment applications – one year after the date of the application, for people you didn’t hire.
  • Resumes – one year after you receive them, for folks you didn’t hire. 
  • Pre-employment tests – this can be any test: drug, medical, capabilities – one year from the test date, if you did not hire.
  • Reference checks – one year after the contact is made.

So now you have hired some one. The list continues.

  • Basic employee information – no less than four years after the information is created.  You will want to keep this as long as the employee is still working for you.
  • Payroll information – three years after the employee is entered into your payroll plan. Again, you will want to keep this in the employee’s file for as long as the employee works with you.
  • I-9 employment forms. – three years after hiring, or one year after the employee leaves, whichever is later. You must update the employee’s information with a new I-9 every three years.
  • Time cards, time sheets or electronic hours recording – two year after the date on the sheet.
  • Job evaluations – two years after the evaluation. I would keep these as a permanent record while the employee is with you.
  • Promotion records – one year after the promotion. Again, that’s the law; I would keep these in the employee file forever.
  • Demotion records – the same as the promotion records above.
  • Baseball cards – (just threw this one in to make sure you’re still reading) – these get passed down to your children and grandchildren.
  • Accommodation requests – one year after the request is made. (These are the requests an employee makes because of disabilities or inabilities to perform their work because of the physical layout of your company.)
  • FMLA leaves and requests – this is the Family and Medical Leave Act request for time off. The time off can be for one day, a half-day, or months. Keep these records for three years after the employee has returned to work.
  • Merit, incentive plans and seniority system plans and records – two years from the creation of the plan.
  • Layoff or recall records and plans – One year after the event takes place. If you lay off folks today and rehire them in six months, the retention is one year after the rehire takes place.
  • Termination records – one year after the termination takes place. Remember, never, ever, ever terminate someone unless there are two people, you and someone taking notes, in the room where the employee is being told they are being let go.
  • All paperwork relating to any kind of discrimination filing – keep until the charges are completely resolved and you and your attorney are sure the case is closed.
  • OSHA forms 300, 300A and 301 – five years after the end of the calendar year in which the records were created.

The basic rule of thumb? If you are not sure, keep the record. These are the federal guidelines. There may be different guidelines for your state.