Published Date: 01/27/2014
By Pat Rountree
Have you ever undertaken a clean-up project at home or at work, only to discover that once you rearranged everything you couldn’t find an important piece of information? Converting paper files to electronic records can free up space, and perhaps encourage you to purge records that are beyond their retention period. However, this project requires planning and compliance considerations so that you can access records when needed.
There are some requirements that are the same for paper or electronic records:
- Record retention in accordance with respective laws (see Desk Manual Chapter 17 Appendix – The specified item was not found.) [Note: If you have any pending charges or litigation, you must maintain all records associated with the issue (including emails) until resolution.]
- Maintenance of records to limit access to those with a need to know
- Privacy/security of personally identifiable information
- Separation of records in compliance with various laws (medical records separate from personnel files) [Note: For more information on maintenance of personnel records, see CAI’s HR Toolbox #14 –The specified item was not found..]
Both Federal and North Carolina laws governing electronic records state that paper records may be converted to electronic records and that they are as valid as paper records as long as they are legible, accessible and can be converted back to a legible and accurate paper record if necessary. The Electronic Signatures (E-Sign) National Commerce Act (http://j.mp/e-si3) states that there are some exceptions to electronic copies, but they are not employee-related documents (wills, foreclosures, divorce, etc.). For any records that do not scan legibly, you should retain the paper original. There are special rules regarding electronic storage of Form I-9s. For more information, go to http://j.mp/i9-st.
When considering records management companies to handle the scanning and indexing for you, be sure to investigate them thoroughly and to have a written agreement that their employees who will have access to your records have been background checked and that all information is maintained confidentially. If medical records will be scanned, a HIPAA business associate agreement should be signed.
Another important consideration is records management. Records should be backed up periodically, scheduled for periodic systems audit, and separated and labeled for accessibility. In the event you are audited by any government agency, you want to be able to make the required electronic records available for review without having to search through all of your records or giving access to records beyond those required for the audit.
If you have questions about personnel records, please contact a member of CAI's Advice & Resolution Team at 919‑878‑9222 or 336‑668‑7746.