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May 24, 2007
What Really Belongs In (and Out ) of Personnel Files

Attorneys Allen M. Kato and Lawrence S. McGoldrick offered valuable advice during a recent BLR audio conference on what documents should be kept in employee personnel files and how long these records should be retained.

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They noted that documents that should be kept in personnel files include all records related to hiring, (e.g., job descriptions, applications, and offer letters), pay plans, pay changes, an employee's signed acknowledgement of receiving the company handbook, and documents regarding performance, both good and bad.

Documents that should be kept in separate files include medical records, I-9 forms, garnishment orders, and communications from legal counsel or other confidential communications. Specifically regarding medical records, such documents should be kept in confidential files under lock and key to prevent any unauthorized disclosure.

While there are various federal and state recordkeeping requirements, Kato and McGoldrick advised that personnel files should be retained for the duration of the employee's tenure with the company, plus an additional five years.

Kato and McGoldrick stressed the importance of recordkeeping, especially when it comes to litigation. Incomplete, sloppy, or incorrect records can destroy an employer's defense to common employment law claims such as discrimination and wage and hour claims.

They suggested that employers create a policy on recordkeeping that specifies what records are to be created and retained, by whom, for how long, where they will be stored, and how the company can retrieve them, and that employers dedicate the time and resources to following the policy.

You can order a CD copy of the HR Recordkeeping audio conference here.

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