Stacks upon stacks of papers in rows

How Long Should I Keep HR Records/Documents?

How Long Should I Keep HR Records or Documents?

by Mary Lou Floyd, CCLS, Former ABL Client Services Director/Paralegal/Office Administrator

The inevitable question comes up during spring cleaning, or periodically throughout the year: How long should I keep certain types of HR documents?

Here are some general guidelines to assist you in determining how long to keep certain records and documents.

Documents to keep for 1 year:

  • Employment applications. Keep for at least 1 year from the date it was submitted.
  • Demotion records. Keep for 1 year from the date of action.
  • Job advertisements. Keep for 1 year after the record is made.
  • Layoff, reduction-in-force, recall records. Keep for 1 year from the time of request.
  • Pre-employment tests. Keep for 1 year from the date of the test.
  • Promotion records. Keep for 1 year from the date of action

Documents to keep for 2 years:

  • Job descriptions. Keep for 2 years after the record is made. Remember to always have a current description for each job/position.
  • Job evaluations. Keep for 2 years after the record is made.
  • Merit, incentive, seniority system records. Keep for 2 years from the date the record is made.

Documents to keep for 3 years:

  • Payroll Information. Keep for 3 years after the record was made.
  • FMLA. Keep dates FMLA leave is taken for 3 years from end of leave.
  • Form I-9.  Keep all I-9 forms for 3 years from date of hire or 1 year after termination, whichever is later. Remember to store I-9s separately from personnel records. Remember to keep a tickler file or calendar reminder to follow up on expiring documents that may affect an employee’s authorization to work.
  • Interview Notes. Keep all interview notes at least 3 years from the date of the interview. If a well-qualified candidate suspects discrimination, the interview notes can provide some protection. The interview notes should also reflect best practices such as all candidates were asked the same questions, the same rating system was used for all candidates, and if an interview panel was used, all the notes from the panel members.
    • A recent case, Pribyl v. County of Wright, United States District Court of Minnesota, November 19, 2018, Case No. 17-cr-0854 (SRN/HB), demonstrates the value of keeping such records:  Amee was a veteran police officer. When a particularly desirable promotion opportunity opened, Amee applied using an online system that screened for minimum qualifications. She made the list of 19 individuals chosen to interview. The interview team asked a standard set of questions for each candidate, noting their responses. After a preliminary round of interviews, no one on the selection panel chose Amee to move on to the next round of five finalists. Almost everyone noted that her answers were short and rehearsed. One said she had been “flippant.” Amee sued, alleging sex discrimination. The court tossed out her lawsuit (dismissed with prejudice), citing the extensive notes, which demonstrated that the selection process had been impartial and well documented. (Courtesy of HR Specialist: Employment Law, Vol. 49, No. 2 – February 2019)

Keep Indefinitely

  • Records relating to discrimination charges. Keep these until at least the final disposition of those charges has been made/completed.

Be consistent in your employment & HR practices and use your best judgment when deciding what records to keep and for how long. Contact the ABL team if you have any questions.


Photo by Christa Dodoo on Unsplash