Should You Combine Employment Records?


Should you combine employment records? As a business owner or HR professional caring for employee files always presents questions.  I will provide some guidance on caring for said employment records.  The confidential nature of information contained in the employees file continues to exist after an employee is terminated. When an employee is terminated the employer-employee relationship ends.  It is important to organize the employees file as a part of the permanent employment record.

By doing so an employer can decrease the risk of violating laws and of information being used in a discriminatory manor.

When considering an employee separation it is useful to know what the term means:voluntary resignation, layoff, job elimination, retirement or discharge.

Employment records consist of multiple files including: payroll records, medical records, benefit enrollment forms and other correspondence such as performance reviews, absences, emergency contact information, etc.  Everything should be stored with Human Resources or the company President.  Information concerning payroll, Social Security  and health and medical have very limited access due to privacy under Health Insurance Portability Act (HIPPA).

All employment records must be kept in a locked file to ensure confidentiality.

Immigration forms such as I-9 and supporting documents about citizenship and nations and natural origin could be discriminatory and should not be accessible to managers and supervisors. If you are audited, you will be asked to produce forms of terminated employees as well.  Separating these forms from the employee file will decrease chances of the auditing authority from finding other potential violations or sharing with Government officials.

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) requires employers to maintain all employment records for one year from the date of termination.  If you have matters involving employee disputes under federal civil rights laws, you must keep the employee file until the federal agency resolves the dispute.  This could be years before you can discard the employee’s file.

By combining the files after termination you increase the chance of someone gaining access to the information and using it inappropriately.  Combining the files can also increase the likelihood of identity theft because personal information is in one place and may not be monitored frequently.

Employers should apply the same guidelines to files for terminated employees as to those of active employees.

By doing so an employer can decrease the risk of violating the laws and of information being used in a discriminatory manner.  Consult an HR professional for guidance with employment records and retention.


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