Lancer Insurance
Friday, May 24, 2024


As autumn colors take over the landscape and the air becomes crisp, it is a time of new beginnings and fresh starts. Just as we embrace the change of seasons by organizing our homes and our busy schedules, it also is the perfect time to give our workspaces a good review. There’s no better place to start than our employee records and document retention practices.

Here, we’ll explore the importance of maintaining meticulous records and document retention, with a specific emphasis on employee files.

Three crucial sets of records deserve our attention: I-9 documents, performance documents, and compliance documents.

Amy Cooley HR Coach 1. I-9 File: Your I-9 forms for all employees should be securely stored, separate from other employee documents. Government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice (Immigrant and Employee Rights Section), and the Department of Labor can audit this file. If you opt to retain copies of identification and work authorization documents, keep them together with the I-9.

Retention Period: I-9 forms must be completed within three days of an employee’s start date and kept for at least one year after their termination (or a minimum of three years, whichever date is later).

Tip: Incorrect or missing I-9 forms can lead to substantial fines or legal troubles. For guidance, consult the official source at, and consider seeking advice from an HR professional.

Bonus tip: The I-9, like your other documents, can be retained digitally.

2. Employee Performance File: Also known as the employee’s “general” file, this is where documents related to skills, experience, job performance, training, and attendance should be kept. These records are vital for decisions regarding hiring, promotions, raises, and more. Examples include:

Application and resume
Job description
Handbook and policy acknowledgments
Training records
Performance reviews
Performance management documents (e.g., coaching conversations, warnings, termination letters)
Employee change forms (i.e., those that document employment status changes—job title, hourly to salary, etc.)
Time off requests and attendance records

Retention Period: While retention requirements vary by document, most must be kept for one to five years. We recommend retaining these files for at least five years and timesheets for at least seven years.

Tip: In the event of disputes, lawsuits, or legal actions, retain all records until the matter is officially resolved.

Bonus tip: Don’t neglect to document more casual performance conversations, such as emails or verbal warnings.

3. Employee Compliance File: This file, often considered “restricted” or “confidential,” contains sensitive or legally protected information. Documents displaying Social Security numbers, medical information, or banking details belong here. Likewise, any documents with potentially prejudicial employee information, including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or religion, should be securely stored. Examples of these documents include:

Background check results
Drug screen results
Motor vehicle report
DOT medical card
Emergency contact form
Direct deposit form
Benefits information

Retention Period: Like the performance file, retention timelines vary. To simplify matters, consider retaining these documents for at least five to seven years. When disposing of employee files, ensure they are securely destroyed, usually through shredding or burning.

Tip: Interview notes and references, although related to performance, often contain sensitive information. It’s advisable to place these items in the compliance file.

Bonus tip: The nature of the industry dictates that many of you will have a series of DOT-required paperwork as well. As you might have guessed, these documents are best to keep in the Compliance category. In fact, we’d recommend a subfolder for DOT paperwork so this information can be easily accessed during a review or audit.

Navigating HR regulations can be complex, so when in doubt, err on the side of caution by retaining documents and seeking professional advice.   [CD1023]

Amy Cooley is HR Leader for The LMC Groups. She can be reached at