Can employers destroy old I-9 forms?

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Question:

Our company is buried in paper. We have filing cabinets full of old documents, including I-9s that are more than a decade old. Can we get rid of some of these documents?

Answer:

Yes, as an employer you can destroy old I-9s and supporting documents, but not for current employees. Once an employee has been termed (or retired, resigned, and so forth), you must keep the I-9 on file for the longer of:

  • - one year from the date of termination, or
  • - three years from the date of hire.

After the retention period has ended, you can (and arguably should) destroy the documents. As described in the article "What to Keep in Employee Personnel Files," until you can destroy the documents, you should keep I-9s separate from personnel files. When it comes time to destroy them, it is important to do so in a secure manner so that your former employees' sensitive data is not compromised. (Shred them or even burn them, but do not simply toss them in the garbage or the recycle bin.)

Note that, if you are in the middle of an I-9 inspection by a government entity or are otherwise facing a dispute or litigation about a particular employee, you should not destroy any documents related to the employee or the dispute.

For more information on employers' obligations with respect to I-9s, see the "Hiring Non-U.S. Workers for Your Business" page of Nolo's website, or consult an attorney for a full analysis of your company's situation.

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