Records, Part 1: What to keep and for how long

Record keeping plays an essential role in the management of any business. Extensive information about employees needs to be retained for a number of reasons. This includes the ability to facilitate efficient and effective human resources management, defend employment decisions when required and comply with numerous federal and state laws.

All records must be retained for a mandatory minimum number of years. Time varies from document to document, but in all cases employers should ensure that records are kept in a secure location, accessible only by authorized personnel. Once they are allowed to be disposed of, care should be taken to ensure that they are destroyed in an appropriate manner, whether by shredding, erasing them completely from digital storage, or otherwise.

The following is a detailed analysis of the different categories of records that must be retained:

set recordings

The recruitment documents include external advertisements and internal advertisements for vacancies, job applications submitted to employment agencies, CVs, applications, interview evaluations, recruitment tests and reference checks. Records of a person who is chosen to be hired should be kept in their personnel file. If an employer does not hire the person, they should keep the records in an applicant file.

Documents related to employment records should be retained for at least 2 years after termination of employment as required by Title VII, FEHA, ADA and ADEA.

personnel files of employees

Employee personnel files should contain the employee’s job title, grading, and description. The file should also include the letter of employment offer, performance observations and evaluations, promotions, demotions, attendance records, notices of absence, disciplinary notices, transfers, dismissals and recalls, training, tests (including certificates), requests for reasonable accommodation and acknowledgments of the company policy and handbook.

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The personnel files are to be kept in a particularly secure place for a period of 3 years after the end of the employment relationship.

Employee wage records

Employee wage records include tables used to calculate wage rates, piecework rates, hours and days of each employee, time cards, shift schedules, and any records showing gender pay gaps.

Employers should retain employee payroll records for a minimum of 4 years in accordance with the California Labor Code, EPA (Equal Pay Act) and FLSA (Fair Labor and Standards Act).


Payslips consist of name, date of birth, address, social security number, job definition, terms of employment, wage rates, union and employee contracts, child labor certificates and notifications, start and finish of each work week, total daily and pay period hours, total wages paid on each payslip, net wages and deductions , meal times and schedules for split shifts.

Salary documents must be kept for at least 4 years after the end of the employment relationship.

Polygraph test for employees

Although the Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) generally restricts the routine use of polygraph tests, they are occasionally used, such as in an employee theft investigation.

The law requires employers to keep a copy of the statement given to employees, stating the reason for the investigation, the incident being investigated, the loss suffered by the employer, the notice served to a polygraph examiner specifying the person or people to be examined and the type are about the access of the employee to the examined person or the examined object as well as all documents, which refer to the actual examination.

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A statement that an audit has been requested may be included in the personnel file, but the remaining related documentation should be retained in a confidential and separate filing system for at least 3 years.

As we always recommend with this sensitive and complex employment law, it is best to consult a professional recruitment firm or specialist to review the guidelines and confirm that your record-keeping practices are compliant.

In our next article, we’ll continue our examination of the various records that must be kept, examine exceptions to standard record-keeping practices, and uncover the consequences of careless record-keeping.