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Employment Records Retention: What Are the Federal Laws?


How long do you have to keep records? There's no one answer. However, we've summarized some of the most common federal laws relevant to employment record keeping. Note that applicability may vary by employer size.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

  • Resumes.
  • Job applications.
  • Job advertisements and postings.
  • Interview notes.
  • Preemployment screening tests and results.
  • Selection, hiring, promotion, demotion, transfer and termination.
  • Performance reviews and employee training records.
  • Payroll records, including pay and benefits.
  • Reasonable accommodation requests.

Retention period: One year after creating the record or taking the personnel action, whichever comes last. Also, note that records required under Title VII must also be maintained for purposes of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

  • Employee data, such as name, address, date of birth, gender and occupation.
  • Hours worked for the day and week.
  • Pay rates.
  • Straight-time wages.
  • Overtime wages.
  • Total earnings for the pay period.
  • Pay changes.
  • Fringe benefits.

Retention period: Generally, three years. Time sheets must be kept for at least two years.

Equal Pay Act (EPA)

  • Payroll documents, including those required under the FLSA.
  • Job descriptions.
  • Performance evaluations.
  • Explanations of wage differentials between employees of different genders.
  • Descriptions of merit, incentive and seniority systems.

Retention Period: Three years.

Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA)

  • Form I-9.
  • Copies of documentation (if applicable), such as permanent resident card or U.S. passport.

Retention period: Three years after the hire date or one year after the termination date, whichever is later.  

Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)

  • Summary Plan Descriptions (SPDs) for retirement and health plans.
  • Information used to support SPDs.
  • Notice of benefit plan changes, such as plan amendments or termination.
  • Notice of reportable events, such as reduction of benefits.
  • Annual benefits reports.

Retention period: Generally, six years. Records used to determine eligibility for benefits must be kept for as long as necessary.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

  • Payroll and employee information, including name, address, occupation, rate of pay, daily and weekly hours worked, and total compensation.
  • Dates eligible employees took FMLA leave and hours taken.
  • Copies of employee FMLA leave notices.
  • Employer FMLA policies and practices.
  • Records of FMLA leave disputes between the employer and employee.

Retention period: Three years.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Employment Tax Regulations

  • Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) records. FICA covers both employee and employer Social Security and Medicare taxes. 
  • Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) records. FUTA is an employer-only tax.

Retention period: Four years after the tax due date or payment date, whichever is later. 

Other federal laws impacting employment record keeping:

  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).
  • Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act.
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
  • Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).

If you have questions about your particular situation, give us a call.

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