You May Be Surprised How Long You Need to Keep Records

When the paper files build up and the cabinets start bulging, it’s time to do some purging. It’s a task that in small offices often gets delegated to whoever looks the least busy.

Is that a good idea? Maybe not. In those files may be the personnel records of long gone employees, making them likely candidates for disposal. Then a week later or a month later or a year from now the government comes to do an audit or you hear from the former employee or, uh oh, from their lawyer and the records are gone.

Office managers and office assistants may know that hiring documents should be kept for for at least a year after the job is filled and that onboarding records like the I-9 need to be retained longer, for three years after hiring or a year after the employee leaves, whichever is longer.

But what about drug test results? Or time cards and payroll records? A year for drug tests unless you’re in the transportation business, and no less than three years for payroll. But even that may not be long enough in some instances should the specter of misclassification of an employee arise. This is especially critical now that the overtime rules have changed.

Those rules may be easy to follow. Where the save or toss decision gets trickier is with employee medical records, FMLA leave, ADA accommodations, ERISA and benefits records. Some sources say saving employee medical records for three years is sufficient. That’s generally correct, however if the employee sustained an on the job injury, OSHA requires the record to be kept for five years. That’s five years after the end of the calendar year in which the injury occurred and NOT five years from the injury. That rule may not apply to you if there are fewer than 11 employees, but it might.

Is your head spinning? Do you still think it wise to delegate the file clean-up to just anyone?

Let Green Key Resources help. Call us to discuss bringing in an HR or office compliance professional who knows the retention and recordkeeping rules. No matter where in the country you are, one call to 212.683.1988 and help will soon be on the way.

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