Employee records retention: we have to keep them for how long?

With so many different employee records and retention timeframes, how do you keep them all straight? We've outlined them for you in this at-a-glance chart.



If you’ve been tasked to create and retain employee records, you know there are varying retention timeframes for each record. Here’s a quick at-a-glance chart to help you identify which employee records must be retained for how long.

(Please note: federal contractors are required to retain records for longer periods than posted below.)

Record Type and Explanation Federal Retention Period Applicable Law(s) Notes
Selection and Hiring Records: job applications, resumes, advertisements about job openings, screening tools, interview notes, records relating to hiring decisions. 1 year after creation of document or hire/no-hire decision is made, whichever is later. For current employees, keep for 1 year after terminated. EEOC
Many states require employers to retain these records for 3 years, although the federal standard is 1 year.
Pre-Employment background checks: credit check, criminal history, driving records, consent forms, any other forms of background checks. 1 year EEOC
Some experts advise 5 years for credit reports per FCRA statute of limitations.
Employee I-9 Form: Form I-9 and any accompanying ID documents. 3 years after date of hire or 1 year after termination (whichever is later) IRCA
Employment Actions: promotions, demotions, transfers, training opportunities, performance appraisals, accommodations, incentives, merit system, seniority system, terminations, etc. 1 year after employee is terminated; however, you may want to maintain employment action records longer to contest unemployment claims EEOC
Reasonable Accommodations: date requested, response, date fulfilled, accommodations made 3 years after employee is terminated ADA  
Employee Family Medical Leave Records: payroll and identifying employee data, occupation, rate of pay, dates taken, hours of the leave, copies of notices provided to employer, documents describing benefits or policies, premium payments, disputes. 3 years FMLA  
Employee Job-related Injury Records: logs, records, and summaries of work-related injuries and illnesses; records of exposure to toxic substances for each employee. 5 years OSHA If employees are exposed to toxic substances, maintain related medical exams and material safety data sheets for 30 years after terminated.
Employee Retirement Benefits: summary plan descriptions, annual reports, disclosures, plan termination. 6 years ERISA  
Employee Payroll Records: name, address, SS#, gender, date of birth, occupation, job classification, daily schedules, pay rate, weekly compensation, amounts and dates of payments, daily and weekly hours, overtime hours and pay, annuity and pension payments, benefits, deductions and additions, explanation of variance in pay between genders, fringe benefits, date paid for pay period. 3 years FLSA
Davis-Bacon Act
Lilly Ledbetter
An explanation for paying different wages to employees of the opposite sex should be retained for 2 years.
Employee Benefits Records: health and benefits beneficiary forms; medical, dental/vision plan elections. 3 years after terminated ADEA  
Employee Tax Records: employer EIN, payments, tips, in-kind wages, personal information, undeliverable W-2s, dates of employment, PTO, income tax withholding allowance certificates, dates and amounts of tax deposits, returns filed, fringe benefits. 4 years from date tax is due or paid FICA
Internal Revenue Code

Sources: EEOC, SHRM

As part of our services, Stratus HR provides digital filing of client employee records to satisfy all federal, state and local record retention requirements. For more information or help with your employee records retention process, please contact your certified HR expert.

Not a current Stratus HR client? Book a free consultation and our team will contact you shortly.

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