Human resources records are changing. Less than five years ago, the most
common type of HR record was a paper personnel file, usually containing standard
categories of paper documents. Companies not only employ online recruiting and
application processes and enterprise-wide personnel databases, but many
day-to-day employee communications take the form of email or instant messaging.
As these records become more prevalent in the daily functions performed by a
human resources department, they also become more important in
employment-related litigation. The changes to the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure that took effect in December 2006 have received much press but little
praise. Interestingly, many of the key decisions relating to electronic records,
both before and after the rule changes, were in the area of employment disputes.
"Record Retention Issues for Human Resources" (HR
Advisor, March/April 2008), by Richmond partner Rodney Satterwhite, outlines some of the specific aspects of records
retention of Human Resources related materials, and discusses some of the
employment-related court decisions that bear on this topic. The increased
importance of electronic information in the workplace will have a profound
effect on employment litigation. The first stages of that impact are underway,
in the form of the newly-revised Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. These changes
create unique issues and opportunities for Human Resources professionals and
departments. Without a doubt, the first step for departments is to audit their
existing materials, and prepare a thoughtful and realistic records retention
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