Hold On! You Might Need to Retain that Employment Document

December 27, 2023

How many years do we need to keep new hire drug screens and workers’ compensation documents?

In Wisconsin, there are different retention periods depending on the type of employment documents at issue. In general, employment records must be retained for three years. However, since there may be records that pertain to multiple issues and are subject to state or federal law, it’s best practice to observe the longest of any overlapping retention periods.

For workers’ compensation documents in Wisconsin, every employer with three or more employees must keep a record of all accidents causing death or disability of any employee while performing services growing out of and incidental to the employment. The records must contain the name, address, age, and wages of the deceased or injured employee, the time and causes of the accident, the nature and extent of the injury, and any other information the Department of Workforce Development may require in a specific case. Wisconsin law doesn’t specify a retention timeframe for these general documents, so the best practice is to keep them for 10 years since a workers’ comp claim may be reopened during that timeframe.

Drug screening records are considered confidential and should be kept in a separate medical file. However, such files are likely considered part of an employee’s personnel file. The general rule of retention for personnel files in Wisconsin is three years.

You must also retain records related to all exposures to toxic materials and harmful physical agents. The Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for each hazardous substance in a workplace must be retained for 30 years.

Additionally, it’s wise to retain certain records for longer periods than required to maintain consistency with what’s kept in individual personnel files. And, importantly, you should retain records related to anticipated or pending legal actions, charges, or litigation until the matter is fully resolved.

This article, slightly modified to note recent updates, was featured online in the Wisconsin Employment Law Letter and published by BLR®—Business & Legal Resources. Reproduced here with the permission of BLR®—Business & Legal Resources.