View Full Version : I-9's - Shredding - quick question

01-24-2003, 03:24 AM
I know that I-9's need to be kept for three years or one year after the person quits, whichever is longer. My question is if you may shred the I-9's after you have kept them the required length of time? Is it a bad idea to shred them or should I store them away as a precaution?

Don D
01-24-2003, 03:31 AM
I suggest doing a quick cost-benefit analysis in your head for this one. The file space that I-9s take up (in my opinion) is so very minimal compared to the audit purposes those forms may meet at some time in the future, even though you're not required to retain them. A file folder full of 2000 I-9 forms takes up just under eight (8) inches of vertical space in a filing cabinet or cardboard box.

01-24-2003, 03:36 AM
I agree that the spce it may take up is small, but I wanted to find out if it is permissable. I have several HR managers asking me before I told them they could, I wanted to verfiy. I will mention that as long as they have the space to retain the documents, they should consider it.

Don D
01-24-2003, 03:39 AM
LAST EDITED ON 01-24-03 AT 10:39AM (CST)[p]Once you have satisfied the governmentally imposed constraints for record retention, you may dispose of them in any manner you wish.......Unless you work for a government agency that does require destruction by burial, burning or shredding and I have worked for one of those.

HR in Okla
01-28-2003, 01:35 AM
I'd say if you are positive about the dates and feel sure you've met the retention requirement, get rid of them. We all have more paper stacking up every day, why keep something that is totally unnecessary? If you rehire someone, you need a new one anyway.

Don D
01-28-2003, 01:55 AM
My only point is that it takes more time to separate, collate, file, retain, move them again at termination, and purge when allowed to destroy....that suddenly we realize we're spending more time on housekeeping this minimal-space item than is warranted. I am a strong advocate of not keeping things past retention date, but with the I-9 we realized it was too time consuming to manage the whole process if destruction was to be the end result.

HR in Okla
01-28-2003, 02:39 AM
I agree that it is a royal pain to figure out the time you can get rid of them. I suppose it really comes down to how many of them you have to deal with. If you have lots of them, it probably isn't worth the time involved.

01-28-2003, 02:44 AM
I've always been told by our legal representatives to get rid of things when you can...that way, they can't hurt you. On the other hand, will they ever help you? I'd say to decide whether there is likely to be a scenario in which having I-9s that you no longer need could be beneficial for you ... generally the only time that you would need to present an I-9 is to prove to a government official that you did them - and did them correctly. If you don't have them - they just need to take your word for it!! I say toss them!

HR in Okla
01-28-2003, 02:48 AM
Anyone have a suggestion for a simple system to track dates, so you can just pick up a handful and safely shred them?

How about pulling terminated ones at the end of the year, throwing them into a file or box labeled 2002, then at the end of 2005, you'll know you're in the clear? You'd probably keep some longer than necessary, but at least you wouldn't sort through them over and over.

01-28-2003, 04:01 AM
I have 2 I9 books. One is for current employees and the other is for termed employees. When I pull the Personnel file for a termed employee I also pull the I9 and write the term date in red on top and then file it at the back of the I9 term book.

That way I can just open the I9 term book and see the date of term and know if I should pull and shred. This works great for me. I don't necessarily shred right at that moment, I have a shred box in my office that NO ONE is allowed to see, other mangers do bring their stuff and put it in my box for shredding. I shred every couple of weeks depending on how full the box is and my other work load. x:-)

01-28-2003, 04:10 AM
I have a binder with the original I-9s for active employees. I also have binders for terminated employees for 2003, 2004, and just started 2005. I have tab dividers in each of these three binders, and when I determine the discard date (one year past term. date or three years from hire date, whichever is longer), I file it in that year and month. At the end of each month I shred whatever is in that section. We are in construction with pretty high turnover in the field, so this has served us well. Just a hint - I keep an identical binder of the active employees' I-9s on hand, just in case we are audited - then I won't have to scramble to produce copies, etc.

HR in Okla
01-28-2003, 04:35 AM
Sounds like a good system. May try it.

01-28-2003, 04:49 AM
Does anyone know of a web site or software that uses electronic
I-9's ? Are these acceptable to the INS ? In this way, just "shred" with the click of a mouse. Seems lots easier than keeping paper copies.


James Sokolowski
01-28-2003, 05:26 AM
Actually, an electronic file is pretty hard to destroy. If you just delete it, it's fairly easy to recover. There are software programs available that promise to completely wipe files from your hard drive, but I don't know how thorough they are, especially since your computer often makes copies of files without telling you. And if the file is on your company's network, they'd have backup copies that you couldn't touch.

Anyway, in answer to your question, the INS has a PDF version of an I-9 that you can fill out on your computer and print out. But you can't save the filled-out form unless you pay for some advanced software from Adobe.

James Sokolowski
Senior Editor
M. Lee Smith Publishers

Don D
01-29-2003, 03:50 AM
Responses 6 through 13 have proved my point that it is far easier to simply place them in a separate alpha file and forget about them. All this task of keeping separate files, pulling and writing on them and moving them to another file and keeping them by year and fretting over their ultimate demise is far too anal a process for me, especially since their retention is apt to cause you absolutely no problem at any point anyway. Read over those posts (6-13)and you might agree that this is all making far too much work for you at the same time you are trying to find more time in your day. Just a thought, so don't stone me.

Debra F
01-30-2003, 11:42 AM
My system is pretty simple, and I do have volume to deal with. I do an audit once or twice each year. I pull the terminated I-9s and write the termination dates on the bottom. The terminated I-9s are then placed in folders by month and year. Then, each month it's easy to reach in the file cabinet, pull the folder for Jan 2000 and shred everything in it. I have about 2000+ active I-9s at any given time and I don't know how many inactive. This way, when someone is rehired (I work at a university, so we always have students being hired and rehired), it's easy to see in our HRIS when they were previously terminated and pull their old I-9.

01-30-2003, 11:58 AM

I won't stone you, and I'm not going to agree with the anal, x:o but to each his/her own.

Do you just keep adding I9's to your pack forever? Doesn't it get rather large and hard to handle x:-/

If you have a very large turnover, or lots of new hires your file could fill a whole cabinet and then when you need to find something you have that many more to go through. I like to keep things neat and tidy as much as possible.x:-)

But like I said in the first sentence, to each his/her own!

Don D
01-31-2003, 01:18 AM
We have a large, damp room upstairs, affectionately referred to as "The Spanish Prison". On days when we assign an HR Specialist or Receptionist to spend time moving stuff up there, they are allowed to wear jeans, chaps and a face mask. When a file gets crowded, we dump half of it, regardless of what it contains, and move the cardboard box up to "The Prison". We never purge the prison. There are certain animals up there that somehow seem to do away with files of a certain age.

Debra F
02-11-2003, 11:31 AM
We frequently rehire these folks (primarily the students), so it does make sense for us to have these files. Yes, we could do new I-9s, but why should we hassle the employee when we have a program that the government says we can use, especially if the person was terminated 4 months ago. Yes, it is a PITA for me, but that's part of my job. Also, as I've found in my audits, when we have rehired folks, we haven't checked to see if there is a current I-9 in the files, so I depend on these term'd I-9 files in their orderly fashion to find their old ones and keep us legal. All I have to do is sign the recert section and keep on going. As I mentioned before, I have around 2,000 active I-9s and over 2-3,000 inactive ones. Life is fun.

02-12-2003, 01:25 AM
Just to add my thoughts. I take the I-9s and put them in the terminated personnel folder. That way they are with the folder if I should ever need them and I don't have to worry about how to store them.

02-13-2003, 12:20 AM
Valentine, I thought the I-9s were always to be kept separate from the personnel file. While our system is a bit cumbersome, the I-9 is always filed separately. I have a question, though - we have to retain the I-9 of a terminated employee 1 yr after termination or 3 yrs after hire date, whichever is longer. What if we rehire a person whose old I-9 is in a terminated-to-be-destroyed-on such and such a date folder? Can we use it and reverify at the bottom? Or should we complete a new one, and attach the old one? Or just start with a new one and discard the old? You guys must think I'm ferociously anal retentive, but I want to protect the company and do things the government's anal retentive way. Any thoughts?

Don D
02-13-2003, 01:47 AM
LAST EDITED ON 02-14-03 AT 09:13AM (CST)[p]Dear 'Retentive': (just kidding). Yes, you'd be wise to construct a new I-9 from the get-go when you hire a new employee. It's not that much trouble, chances are you're passing out I-9s in group fashion anyway, and why would you go to the trouble to rework the bottom to show reverification when the whole process to begin with isn't that much trouble, and you'd likely get retentive all over again worrying about whether or not you should have restarted the process again. I-9s are (edit - NOT) required to be kept separately, unless your company policy requires. Some do, some don't. Arguments on both sides.

02-13-2003, 07:28 AM
So I don't have to go fishing for the old one that hasn't been destroyed yet then? Marvelous. Management wants me to, if it hasn't been destroyed, but if there's a "safe" way to streamline this, I'm all for it! If audited, all we have to produce is a correct, current I-9, right? I prefer to just do a new one. Thanks for the input, Don, I'll run this by the boss and try to get things simplified. Seems like our powers-that-be overemphasize the piddly things but ignore the truly important issues. Sound familiar? :)

HR in Okla
02-13-2003, 07:45 AM
Anyone out there actually ever had an audit of your I-9s by the INS? Do they really do it, or is this just some HR person's smokescreen to create job security for all of us?

Don D
02-13-2003, 08:36 AM
The last time we had a DOL investigator in here looking into an FMLA complaint, SHE ACTUALLY ASKED TO SEE THE I-9 FILES. I don't know by what authority she assumed she could make that request, but against my better judgement, in order not to rile her, I showed them to her. She spent all of 15 seconds with the file. She apparantly justified her existence by entering in her report that she had done an I-9 inspection.

02-13-2003, 08:43 AM
LAST EDITED ON 02-13-03 AT 03:47PM (CST)[p]We had and Wage & Hour audit and they examined our I-9 forms. This guy spent a very long time checking out the forms. He even pointed out a couple that had lines reversed, you know, "Document title" info switched with "Issuing authority". A lot of people try to fill out the entire form for me even though I tell them not to go below the signature line.

02-13-2003, 09:03 AM
LAST EDITED ON 02-13-03 AT 04:06PM (CST)[p]I had the remarkable experience (in a former employment life) of having the INS show up for an audit of our I-9s. This occurred relative to an unskilled wood-products manufacturing plant, where we employed a large number of visa'd Mexican workers and 1st generation Mexican Americans. The INS officers surrounded the parking lot on all sides like a SWAT team and then entered the facility armed, (but gratefully, with pistols holstered). Needless to say, many of our hispanic employees were fascinated beyond belief as this drama unfolded before their eyes -- as were the rest of us.

It delighted us to no end to have current and valid I-9s for every employee!! My guess was, some neighbors may have complained based on what they perceived to be the situation; or some disgruntled caucasion employee who felt threatened being in the minority party. (The labor force was soley made up of about 80% Hispanic and 20% White).

HR in Okla
02-14-2003, 02:03 AM
Very interesting, brings up a point that I'd not thought of. Does just any government employee who comes for another reason have a right to see them? (Thank God, I've never experienced any kind of government investigation.)

02-18-2003, 02:26 AM
LAST EDITED ON 02-19-03 AT 07:14AM (CST)[p]Linda

I do keep them separate until I close out the file. Then I just put them in the file with the separate medical information and put that file in the original personnel file and file it away in the closed out area. That way the medical is separate and the I-9 is also. I always use a new I-9 whenever someone is rehired rather than fill out the bottom.


02-24-2003, 06:30 AM
About 15 years ago, I worked for a mexican food chain and we were subpoened by the INS. I had to go to a federal courthouse, take a sworn oath, and answer alot of questions. Very scary (I was much younger then!). As a result, at my next job when I was asked to sign off on I-9's sent from distance locations with "copies" of the documents, I refused. Even though I processed all paperwork, my boss signed off on the I-9's because I wouldn't and she was wise enough not to make an issue of it. By the way, they found that we did have illegal immigrants working for us - corporate was unaware. One store manager was keeping his labor costs down via a great referral system. Big mess - never again!