Employee Records Retention: What, Why, and How?

Did you know you're required to document every employment action, from hiring to termination? Learn more tips for your employee records retention strategy.



If you loathe journaling, the topic of employee records retention may be difficult to swallow. As an employer, you’re required by law to document every employment action, from posting a job advertisement to offering retirement benefits -- and everything in between. Then you have to retain that record for the duration of the employee’s job and, in some cases, for years later.

What all has to be saved in your payroll records? Get details in this video!

What records do employers keep?

This chart is a list of federal record-keeping requirements of employment-related records. Please note that state requirements may require record retention for longer periods than the federal requirement and should be reviewed to determine your responsibility.

Why do employers have to keep so many employment records?

The simplest reason you must keep such detailed employment records is to protect yourself in the event of an employment claim (wrongful termination, discrimination, etc). Without appropriate documentation, you would have nothing to defend yourself and could lose your business while trying to defend your company. You may also need these records in the event of an audit.

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How specific should I be in my employee records?

According to Eplace Protect, your employee documentation should follow these rules:

  1. Be specific. If your employee is late for work, include the date/time they were scheduled to work and the time the employee arrived.
  2. Support accusations. If a policy was violated, identify the policy and specify how it was violated, including any relevant personal observations.
  3. Be consistent. Ensure your employees are held to the same standard and that any precedented corrective action has been followed. Write in the same style and tone in your documentation and cite all policies and procedures.
  4. Be precise. Date each document with day, month, year, and time. Include names of all involved and their job titles. Use concise language.
  5. Be clear. Don’t sugar coat it when you present the documentation to the employee. Convey the same message that is written.

What if we’re involved with an employment claim?

In the event of a discrimination charge filed under Title VII, ADA, or GINA, your records must be retained until either the period of being able to make a claim has passed or litigation has been terminated.

What if my employment record isn’t on the Employee Records Retention chart?

If a specific employment record is not listed in this chart, please consult with legal counsel before destroying the record. Most employers use a 7-year rule to cover state and federal statutes of limitations.

For more information or help with your employee records retention, please contact our HR experts at HR@stratus.hr.

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