How Long to Hang On to Those Personnel Records

California and federal law requires employers to retain personnel records for, in some instances, FOREVER! Here’s a handy list of recommended retention of personnel records.

The following list of common personnel records includes recommended retention periods; for certain personnel records, the period recommended exceeds those mandated by law or by statute of limitations considerations:

  • Application for employment = Permanent
  • Offer letters = Permanent
  • Records of all changes in salary and position since date of hire = Permanent
  • Forms signed by employees to secure benefits and forms reflecting changes in beneficiary and coverage = 7 years; permanent for pension records
  • Attendance records = 5 years
  • Performance evaluations = Permanent
  • Forms signed by employees expressing their adherence to employer’s policies = Permanent
  • Awards to employees = Permanent
  • Letters complimenting employees’ performance = 5 years
  • Disciplinary actions = 5 years
  • Record of employer’s property issued to employee = For duration of employment
  • Verification of employees’ references = 3 years
  • Verification of employment provided to subsequent prospective employers = 3 years following termination
  • Requests for transfer = 5 years
  • Records of leaves of absence taken = 5 years
  • Wage attachments/garnishment notices = 6 years
  • Notices of union membership, dues check-off = 4 years
  • Record of termination and reasons therefor = Permanent

Employees of nonpublic employers are allowed to inspect personnel records used to determine that employee’s qualifications for employment, promotion, additional compensation, termination, or other disciplinary action, or that pertain to any grievance concerning the employee. Lab C §1198.5. This doesn’t include records relating to the investigation of a possible criminal offense, letters of reference and ratings, reports, or records obtained before the employee’s employment. Employer’s beware: if a supervisor keeps a “desk file” on employees, the records in that file will come within the purview of §1198.5 and be subject to inspection. 

For everything employers need to know about recordkeeping requirements, turn to CEB’s California Wage and Hour: Law and Litigation, chap 9. Also check out CEB’s Advising California Employers and Employees, chap 9.

© The Regents of the University of California, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

3 thoughts on “How Long to Hang On to Those Personnel Records

  1. Pingback: Who Says There's Too Much Government Regulation? - Forbes

  2. Pingback: How Long to Keep Employment Records | California Employment Law

  3. Pingback: 8 Guidelines for Writing Reference Letters | CEBblog™

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