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Management of Employment Records

Objective: Gain an Understanding of the Management of Employment Records

To a large extent, the management of employment records is part of the administrative role of HR and an in-depth discussion of this issue is more appropriate in preparation for the PHR examination. However, the SPHR should have some familiarity with the records retention requirements of the many laws and regulations with which the HR function must deal. A threshold issue is the determination as to whether the law requiring employment record retention actually applies to the organization. Various laws might apply only if the organization has a stated number of employees and/or federal contracts of more than certain dollar amounts. The information as to which organizations are covered by a law is contained in the discussion of that law in this chapter and others. It is not repeated in this section.

It is not unusual for the same record to have different record retention requirements in different laws. In that case, the retention period for that particular record should be the one corresponding to the longest period. It is often prudent, and in some instances required, to keep records longer than mandatory retention period. If, for example, the records in question are part of litigation or a proceeding in front of a third party, such as the EEOC or OSHA, the records must be retained until final disposition of the complaint or lawsuit. In addition, it often is prudent to keep employment records until the statute of limitations for filing a complaint or lawsuit has expired if there is some potential that the employee might do so.

Table 3.9 contains a brief summary of records retention requirements. It has been adapted from a more detailed summary prepared by Wallace Bonapart and Cornella Gamiem, which is available on the Society for Human Resource Management website at http://www.shrm.org/. The SPHR should use this table only as a broad guideline and consult a more detailed source such as agency regulations and guidance when determining the need for retention of employment records.

Table 3.9 Summary of Employment Record Retention Requirements


Record Retention Requirements

Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)

Payroll records—3 years. Employment records (promotions, applications, layoff, recall, terminations and so forth)—1 year.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Employment records (applications, requests for reasonable accommodations, promotions, selections for training, terminations and so forth)—1 year from record creation or taking of the action.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Employment records (applications, promotions, transfers, layoffs, terminations and so forth)—1 year from record creation of taking of the action.


A copy of the current EEO-1 Report must be kept in the files.

Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)

Notices, payroll actions, and so forth—6 years.* -*COBRA does not mandate retention requirements, per se. However, COBRA amends ERISA and its retention requirements apply.

Davis-Bacon, Service Contract, and Walsh-Healy Public Contract Acts

Employment and payroll records—3 years from end of the contract.

Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)

Annual reports, summary plan descriptions, plan changes, required reports to the Department of Labor and the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, along with related materials to prepare such reports—6 years.


Information necessary to determine benefits for participants—As long as they are relevant.

Employee Polygraph Protection Act

Test results and reason for administration—3 years.

Equal Pay Act

Payroll records—3 years.

Executive Order 11246

Affirmative action plans—2 years.

Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA)

Documents containing information from credit reports—Must be shredded on completion of action/determination.

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

Payroll records—3 years.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Employment records, payroll records, leave records, employee notices, and so forth—3 years.

Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) Internal Revenue Code (Federal Income Tax Withholding)

Employment and payroll records—4 years from the date the tax is due or the tax is paid, whichever is later.

Immigration Reform and Control Act

Form I-9—3 years from date of hire or 1 year from date of termination, whichever is later.

Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)

Logs and reports—5 years.


Medical records and records of exposure to toxic substances for each employee—30 years from the date the employee leaves employment with the organization.

Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Employment and payroll records—2 years.


A copy of the current affirmative action plan developed under the act must be kept in the files.

Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (UGESP)

Recruitment and selection documents, including the analysis of adverse selection based on these documents—2 years after the adverse impact is eliminated where analysis indicated adverse impact.

Vietnam Era Readjustment Assistance Act

Employment and payroll records—2 years


A copy of the current affirmative action plan must be kept in the file.


A copy of the current VETS-100 must be retained.

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