Copy it? File it? Shred it? What should you do with that document . . .

I frequently get questions about the legalities of handling personnel documents. Is it okay to keep an I-9 in a personnel file? How should we handle medical information? Can we keep some files electronically? With so many regulations and considerations, deciding what stays and what goes is no simple task. So, here’s a quick outline of some of the basics.

EMPLOYEE DOCUMENTS:  According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the following documents must be saved either as hard copies or electronic files:

  • performance evaluations
  • attendance records
  • disciplinary records
  • employee announcements
  • signed handbook receipts
  • requests for employment verification
  • education certifications
  • applications
  • resumes
  • orientation information
  • race and ethnicity identification forms*
  • medical information — including documentation required by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)*

*These should be preserved separate from regular personnel files (if these are stored electronically, they should be in a separate database with separate access protocols).

Other documents that may be stored electronically (with caveat):

  • BENEFITS DOCUMENTS and COBRA-RELATED MAILINGS (Must be in a safe and accessible system, and can be readily printed, inspected or examined.)
  • TAX DOCUMENTS:  Including payroll records, tax returns, W-2s, 1099s, and supporting records. (Best to keep paper copies of any records that may be needed in an audit directed at employment tax compliance.)
  • I-9 DOCUMENTATION (click here to see previous post)
  • FMLA and PAYROLL DOCUMENTS: (Must be available for copying and transcription upon request by representatives of the Department of Labor.)
  • MEDICAL RECORDS AND INJURY REPORTS:  (Must be able to produce forms equivalent to OSHA’s forms within four business hours of a request from an authorized government representative.) X-rays must be preserved in their original state.

If you choose to store records electronically, be sure you handle them properly:

  • Scan originals in color to preserve all information possible.
  • Stop scanning relevant documents immediately if a lawsuit is filed. You will need all documents in their original form for litigation.
  • Use folder and file names that will simplify retrieval.
  • Ensure limited access to files – authorized individuals only.
  • Securely destroy unneeded hard copies.
  • Retain hard copies of any documents that cannot be clearly or completely scanned into an electronic system.

For more information about document retention, or to schedule an audit of your Human Resource Department, contact ECRM today.

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