Records Retention Schedule
Earlier in this chapter, you read about the OSHA 300 Log and 300A Summary Form and that the documents must remain on file for five years after the summary has been displayed. Most of the files in your office must be kept for a specific period of time, and there are both federal and state requirements. When they differ, the longer requirement supersedes. This section does not address the retention requirements since most of them are state specific, but it will give you some things to consider about some of the files that you need to keep. It is recommended that you find out how long these files need to be kept. If an employee leaves the company or it is year-end, this doesn't necessarily mean that files can be discarded.
When purging files (which is to take them from your active files and put them in storage), write the discard date of the contents on the box. By doing this, when the contents are ready to be discarded or shredded, it can be done at once; there will be no need to sort through the contents of the box.
The time required to keep workers' compensation files may vary based on whether or not the employee missed time from work due to the injury, and if the claim was litigated. In the event of an unfortunate fatality, it is likely that the file will have to be kept permanently. Ask your workers' compensation insurance carrier how long workers' compensation files must be kept.
Employment applications for unsuccessful applicants must be kept after you have filled the position. How long may be determined by whether or not you interviewed the applicant. Additionally, you may be required to keep advertisements for employment. Generally, this will be regulated by the EEOC, but your state may require you to keep the files longer.
Payroll records include timecards or time-clock reports, the calculation of salary, hours worked, and taxes, and other deductions that are withheld. Payroll tax forms are also considered payroll records. The wage and hour laws in your state will determine how long payroll records must be maintained.
An employee's personnel file is kept through the duration of employment. After she leaves the company, it cannot be discarded immediately. If an employee retires, you may need to keep the file indefinitely if you have a company-sponsored retirement plan. Again, don't toss the file until you know for sure.
The Fair Credit Report Act (FCRA) regulates how reports received during pre-employment credit checks must be destroyed. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) mandates the confidentiality of employee records before, during, and after employment. There have been many changes in privacy laws over the past few years.
If your company has a self-funded medical plan, an employee's medical file may need to be kept for several years after she has left the company. This is due to the company's role as plan administrator. There may also be requirements in your state for other files related to self-funded and third-party benefits.