How Long Do I Keep Timesheets?

This pertains to County and Municipal Government employees, not to State Government employees.

A question the Local Records Unit often gets is: How long do I need to keep employee time sheets?

The current Local Records Retention Schedules instruct you to:

a) Destroy in office 30 years from date of separation records used for retirement or similar benefits verification.

b) Destroy in office all remaining records after 4 years.

People often call us thinking they have to keep “all those time sheets” for 30+ years. The only way you would need to keep time sheets for that long would be if you needed them to verify employee’s benefits or salary information. If you have another way to document that information (or if the time sheets don’t document that information at all), you can destroy them after 4 years.

This applies to time sheets kept by the finance office or perhaps human resources. If employees are keeping copies of their time sheets for their personal reference, those are reference copies and may be destroyed when their reference value ends to the employee.

Time sheets do not have to be printed. If you create and keep them in electronic format, you just need to be able maintain those files for the specified retention period.

Are Time Sheets Open For Public Inspection?

Time clock at Wookey Hole Cave Museum. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Dr. David Lawrence addresses this in his book Public Records Law for North Carolina Local Governments, 2nd edition, 2009. The author states that time cards that simply report the time a person arrives and leaves work are more of a financial record than a personnel record, and therefore open for public inspection. But many time sheets now are more elaborate and may indicate amount and type of leave taken and earned.  Time sheets of this type would be part of a personnel file and not open for public inspection.


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