Comply, Record, Destroy: Employment Recordkeeping That Makes the Grade

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By Sara Schafer

Would you be comfortable sharing your employment records with an outside auditor or investigator? If that question made you cringe, it’s time to assess your human resource recordkeeping protocols.

“Recordkeeping requirements and compliance is one of the big way employers trip up,” says Rob Russell, University of Missouri Extension specialist in labor and workforce development. “If you’re running a small business, you either need to outsource it or have someone in your business do it.”

Employment laws are governed by multiple federal and state agencies. Russell suggests confirming which laws apply to your specific employee arrangements. Then develop some best practices for record retention and destruction. “If you can’t document you’re following the law, by default, you are in violation,” he says.

Create a plan for your farm, Russell suggests, on the following items:

•    Identify what documents need to be kept and for how long.
•    Decide which format for how to keep records (electronic versus paper).
•    Create a record retention schedule.
•    Place all records in a secure location.
•    Keep medical records/information in a separate file.
•    Maintain a separate confidential file (for records on disciplinary issues, etc.).
•    Always be prepared to produce records quickly.
•    Determine how to properly discard records. 

Type of Record Length of Time to Retain

Record of serious work-related illnesses and injuries 

5 years

Payroll records, collective bargaining agreements, sales and purchases records'\

Earnings, hours worked, time “offered” but “refused” for H-2A workers

I-9 forms (or 1 year after termination)  

3 years

Records used to compute wages (ex: time cards, work schedules and wage rates)

Youth employment records (ex: work certificates, names, addresses, ages of child, times worked each day)  

2 years

All personnel or employment records

Any employee benefit plan (ex: pension or insurance plans), written seniority plan or merit system after termination 

1 year

“If you can’t document you’re following the law, by default, you are in violation.”


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