How Long Do We Have To Keep All Of This Stuff?

Business creates paperwork. (Anyone remember the late 80s and the loudly-hailed advent of the ‘paperless office’?)  As we head into a new year, it seems like a good time to clean out the paperwork you don’t need and organize the paperwork you do need. But, how to tell the difference?

One way to avoid trouble is to be generous with your document retention guidelines – if it calls for three years, keep your documents for five. Another way is to have a clear policy about time-frames for destruction – and then keeping to that time-frame. The following is a good breakdown of common documents and how long you need to keep them.

Employee Compensation: Keep payroll records (including records of wages, hours, collective bargaining agreements, employment contracts, date of payment, amount of payment, straight and overtime earnings etc.) for three years. Time cards can be discarded after two years.

Leave of Absence Records: FMLA wants you to retain records related to leaves of absence for three years. This includes basic payroll data, FMLA leave dates, and copies of leave notices.

I-9 Documentation: Employers must retain completed I-9s for three years after the date of hire or one year after the date employment ends, whichever is later.

Pre-Employment Records (i.e. job postings, ads, applications, resumes): The Age Discrimination in Employment Act requires you to keep advertisements, job applications, and resumes for one year from the date of the event.

OSHA Logs: This law mandates that logs be kept for five years following the end of the year to which the records relate.

Employment Records (including promotions, demotions, transfers, terminations): Companies must keep these records for one year from the date the record was made or the termination action was taken, whichever is later.

At-a-glance discard chart
Employee Compensation  2013 and prior
Time cards                     2015 and prior
Leave of Absence           2013 and prior
I-9 documentation          2013 and prior
Pre-employment data      2015 and prior
OSHA logs                     2012 and prior
Employment records       2015 and prior

What about electronic documents?
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) address issues of discovery as they relate to electronically stored information. (The FRCP are the rules attorneys follow when conducting civil suits.) The FRCP always included rules related to the retention and discovery of documents relevant to litigation, but with so many documents stored electronically, the rules were updated.

If you are like most businesses, you create and save an enormous amount of data – both electronically and hard copy. This is a good opportunity to review and update your policies related to retention; it is a good preventative measure to save time and expense should your company ever, unfortunately, be named in a lawsuit. To comply, I suggest
• determining what your company policy or practice is related to data storage and retention.
• draft a Document Storage and Retention policy if you don’t already have one.
• draft a policy to address document preservation should litigation be threatened.
• communicate your policies to all employees who may create or have access to electronic data.

Finally, be careful when disposing of documents. You can’t just dump the data in the trash or recycling bin. At the least you’ll want to render the information unreadable or undecipherable. Office shredders are appropriate for daily use but not very efficient for large volumes or documents. A better solution is to utilize a document management company. I can recommend three services:

1. DataSite Business Archives. All your file boxes can be stored in the secure DataSite warehouse, and they have an online retrieval and inventory system. Any file box in storage can be retrieved and delivered directly to your office usually within 24 hours. DataSite will also purge and destroy old records on a schedule that you determine. For more information see www.datasitenw.com.

2. Iron Mountain. All your file boxes can be stored in the secure Iron Mountain warehouse, and they have an online retrieval and inventory system. Any file box in storage can be retrieved and delivered directly to your office usually within 24 hours. Iron Mountain will also purge and destroy old records on a schedule that you determine. Iron Mountain has been around for decades, and is the leader in document management services. For more information see www.ironmountain.com.

3. Shred It. Shred It is a scheduled service (usually monthly), coming to your office and shredding onsite. You are given a certificate of destruction, and the rates are very reasonable. For more information see www.shredit.com.

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lisa@dawnspringhr.com

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