Dental Office Records

Are employee records overcrowding your office?

Sept. 24, 2014
There are many different organizations with many different regulations regarding keeping, filing, and destroying dental employee records.

Office managers are always looking for ways to clear the clutter in what are often extremely crowded administrative desks and records areas. While most dental professionals are well versed in the various legal requirements concerning maintenance and destruction of patient records, there are also myriad laws that cover confidential information and records of employees. It is important for those in charge of maintaining such records to know what to keep, where to keep it, and for how long.

In terms of what employee records employers need to keep and where, the basic rule of thumb is that all documents relating to actual employment should be kept in the same personnel file. This includes all documents related to the application, hiring process, employment relationship, and separation. An employee’s medical records, however, should be kept apart from the general personnel file. The Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA) requires employers to keep medical records in separate, locked, confidential files, with access limited to those with a legitimate need to know.

Regarding how long records should be kept, various state and federal laws and agencies have different record retention requirements that often cover the same documents. This makes it especially important for employers to be familiar with these laws. For example, the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act require that employers keep records for one year from the date the record was created or from when an action was taken. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act has separate retention standards. The Fair Labor Standards Act and Family and Medical Leave Act also have separate, rigid requirements for certain documents related to employment, such as time slips, payroll records, and employee benefits-related documents.

While maintaining these records, employers also have an obligation to protect confidential employee information. As with patient information, this can be especially tricky when it comes to electronically stored information. Exposure of personal identifying information from unauthorized access to employment records can hurt employee productivity, morale, and goodwill. In addition, an employer could face a negligence action. In some states, employers can be held legally responsible if they do not properly secure and dispose of confidential employee information.

To prevent mistakes and inconsistencies, office managers or human resource personnel should establish and maintain a clear policy regarding record retention and destruction specifically tailored to employee records. The policy should include a schedule, file location, and methods of destruction. Once the required retention time frames have been met, employers should create a destruction log and make sure that disposal is completed with finality and security so as to minimize the risk of a breach.

Josh Viau is Of Counsel in the Atlanta office of the national labor and employment law firm Fisher & Phillips LLP. Feel free to contact him at (404) 240-4269 or [email protected].