Record Retention Guide: types, documents, and timeline

Dealing with personnel files can be a daunting, yet rewarding task. Having all documents together in the event of an audit or worse, a lawsuit, could save your company costly fines and mounds of legal trouble down the road. This chart will offer a brief explanation of what items need to be kept and for how long.*

Type of Record


Retention Time

Personnel Records

Job Advertisements, applications, resumes, interview notes, ADA requests, hiring records, promotions, demotions, transfers, compensation, separations, etc.

1 year from the date action occurred

Drug Tests

Pre-employment, random checks

1 year or 5 years if subject to the Department of Transportation

Payroll Records

ADEA, FLSA, hours worked, wages paid, pay periods, etc.

3 years minimum, recommended 5 years


Form I-9 signed by employee and employer

Retain for length of employment. Upon termination, retain for 3 years after hire date or 1 year after termination (whichever is later)


Summary plan descriptions, annual reports, plan terminations, etc.

Minimum of 6 years or as long as the documents are relevant


Requests, dates and time used, copies of employee notices

3 years


Proof of initial and notices to continue group health coverage upon certain conditions

3 years following event

Workers Compensation

Injury details, medical exams, return to work statuses, accommodation information

30 years

FICA, FUTA, Federal Withholding

Records with employee names, compensation and tax information

4 years after date tax is paid

Training material, handbooks, policies

Presentations, notice of changes, etc.

6 years beyond period in use

*For informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. This is not an all-inclusive list. For more details please visit

Since rules and regulations vary from federal to state, it is recommended to keep documents for the maximum amount of time. When the time is right for purging, please shred documents and do not discard in the trash.