Is your company a small group of five or a large team of five hundred?  Whatever the case may be, you have important and confidential employment records.  These can include a wide variety of paper and electronic documents, including time sheets, emergency contact forms, performance evaluations, and medical leave requests.  Your employment records should be kept in a secure location, but there’s no need to retain them indefinitely.  The following are federal requirements regarding document retention.

General Employment Records

Any information relating to training, evaluation, promotion, demotion, termination, or accommodation must be kept for at least one year after the document is created.  Federal contractors must retain these records for three years.


Federal regulations require companies to maintain these records for at least three years.  This includes any documentation of salary, hours worked, pay increases/decreases, overtime hours, and pension payments.

I-9 Forms

Employment eligibility verification documents must be retained for at least three years after an employee is hired.  If an employee is terminated, his or her I-9 form may be disposed of after one year.


Companies are required by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act to keep records of pension and retirement benefits for a period of six years.  These records should include basic details of the plan, changes in benefits, annual reports, and records of plan termination.  If health care coverage continues after employment has ended, companies are encouraged, though not required, to maintain relevant documents for the same period of time.

Tax Records

Federal regulations mandate that all employers retain W-4 forms at least four years after taxes are due or paid. 

Affirmative Action Records

Federal contractors and companies with more than one hundred employees are required to keep any personnel documents than may relate to affirmative action policies for a period of two years.

Family Medical Leave Records

Under the Family Medical Leave Act, companies with more than fifty employees are required to retain relevant documents for at least three years.  These records should include notices to the employee regarding details of paid and unpaid leave, dates and hours of leave taken, and any documents regarding disputes of requested leave.

Safety Records

In accordance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA), documents pertaining to workplace injuries and illnesses should be kept for at least five years after the incident.  If an employee is exposed to a toxic substance, documentation must be kept for the remaining period of employment plus an additional thirty years.

Polygraph Test Records

Any company that administers a polygraph test to an employee is required to document the reason and results of the test, and retain those records for a period of three years.

Drug Test Records

Federal contractors must keep records of negative or cancelled drug/alcohol tests for at least one year.  If an employee fails or refuses to submit to a drug/alcohol test, documentation of the incident must be retained for a period of five years.

It is not illegal to retain employment documents longer than the federally-required amount of time, and sometimes it is wise to do so.  For example, if a company is involved in an ongoing dispute with a terminated employee, all documents must be kept until the matter is settled.  You should create a document disposal schedule and destroy records by shredding them to ensure that no information is inadvertently lost or otherwise compromised.

If you have any questions about document retention or other personnel issues, we would be glad to help you. The attorneys of Gibbes Burton are passionate about helping professionals and businesses to minimize risk and build success.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This