Every employer needs to keep records on pay, hours, workplace injuries, and the like. And, of course, the fun does not end there — you also must maintain additional documentation, such as job descriptions, annual objectives, and performance reviews.
In totality, these documents make up your employment records. To prevent any number of disastrous circumstances, from lawsuits to identity theft, you must make sure to protect these files (whether paper or digital) under the strictest of confidentiality. Because supervisors and human resources (HR) staff often work with these records, however, slip-ups can occur all too easily.
The first and most basic step toward safeguarding employment records is taking and keeping a basic inventory of your files. Documents typical to most employers include those related to:
- Basic employment and earnings data, work schedules, and withholding taxes (W-4 Form and state tax forms, if applicable)
- Retirement, profit-sharing, and other benefits
- Job applications and resumes
- Form I-9 on employment verification and eligibility to work in the United States
- Workplace illnesses or injuries, exposure to toxic substances, and legally required medical exam results
Maintain paper or digital file folders that document every employee’s work skills and history. Inside should go items such as offer letters of employment, performance appraisal forms, vacation leave forms, change of status forms (including promotions and transfers), exit interview forms, and authorizations to release information.
Keep certain, more confidential records in separate (digital or paper) folders to prevent privacy invasion or discrimination risks. Here are some examples and why:
- Form I-9 (indicate age and alien status)
- Medical forms (may indicate an illness or disability)
- Wage and hour records (may reveal age)
- Group health and life insurance coverage (indicate age and marital status)
- Family Medical Leave Act forms (may indicate health status of employee or dependents)
- Certain Equal Employment Opportunity Commission forms (which reveal race, sex, or age)
- Workers’ compensation claim information (may indicate an injury, illness, or disability)
Maintaining records is only half the battle. Keep your employment files up to date — in other words, add appropriate data to the correct file promptly and remove all dated or inappropriate information.
Store your files in a secure place. For hard copies, this means a locked room with file cabinets that can also be locked. Protect digital files with passwords that are regularly changed throughout the year. Encrypt the most sensitive data both while it is in storage and in transit (if you use an external, cloud-based solution).
Above all, establish a clear policy on how records should be used and maintained, who should have access to them, and how employees should be allowed to review the information.
A big difference
Proper care and handling of employment records could save you hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of dollars if an employee files a lawsuit and you are able to defend yourself. Many HR processes also run much more smoothly when records are orderly, thorough, and up to date. For more information, please contact us.