(This article was originally posted March 16, 2011, during a week of stories about employment law.)

It has never been easier to search for –
I kind of got ahead of myself in a way. One thing that emerged as I had all of these disparate discussions is how important documentation is.

Of course that’s not new. In fact, we all know the old adage, “when in doubt, document it,” but this is probably worth revisiting before moving on to some more recent, technology-based changes in screening and vetting.

As important as recordkeeping is, it can also be very confounding. After all, employment laws haven’t come into being and evolved in a linear, streamlined fashion in order for you to have an easy time of it. So some head scratching is understandable and kind of inevitable.

Although not all records need to be kept for four years, it might make it easier on yourself if you adopt that as your rule of thumb, knowing you might have to keep some other files, such as OSHA records, longer than four years.

Unless you have a specific reason to keep records for other purposes, you should dispose of the records at the end of that four-year retention period. This will not only help you to avoid storage charges and any requirement to produce records after their utility has passed, it will also eliminate any basis for claims made beyond the period mandated by state and federal law.

So here’s a laundry list of what to keep for four years:

  • Full name and Social Security number
  • Home address
  • Date of birth (including documentation of DOB)
  • Sex, occupation, and job classification
  • Workweek
  • Time records
  • Total wages paid each pay period
  • Date of payment and pay period covered
  • Basis on which wages are paid, i.e. x amount per hour/week/month, etc.
  • For exempt employees, the records must include the employee's total remuneration for employment, including fringe benefits and perks
  • Work-time schedules
  • Wage rate tables
  • Documentation of any wage differential to employees of the opposite sex in the same establishment
  • Straight time (for non-exempt employees)
  • Overtime (for non-exempt employees)
  • Hours worked (for non-exempt employees)
  • Compensation other than regular rate of pay
  • Additions and deductions
  • Piece rates or incentive plans
  • Tips and gratuities
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification form) This form must be kept for three years after the date of hire or one year after the date of employee's termination, whichever is later
  • Individual contracts
  • Collective bargaining agreements
  • Terms and conditions of employment
  • Personnel, membership, or employment referral records and files
  • Retroactive payments or compensation for unpaid minimum wages or unpaid overtime compensation
  • Sales and purchase records
  • W-4 and W-2 forms

Wow. Had enough? It’s enough to make you want to _____, well, we don’t want to put any crazy ideas in your head.

Obviously there are some software products that can make your recordkeeping seem slightly less daunting. We’d love to hear from you about what you’re using, how it makes your life easier and in a perfect world what you would like your software to do that it currently doesn’t.

And stay tuned for some of our postings on staying on the right side of employment laws.

Tags: Business, Documentation, Legal