Email Retention

Email is likely the largest single documented source of communications between employees in any size organization. Everything from casual exchanges of, “How was your weekend?” to sensitive HR discussions like, “Should Joe be fired?” are all communicated via this tool. As such, email poses a unique challenge to organizations when it comes to HR record keeping. Courts and agencies consider emails discoverable records for investigations of all sorts. Thus, email retention must be considered a vital part of any organization’s record-keeping responsibilities.

In general, electronic records (including emails) are subject to the same retention requirements as hard copy (paper) records. MSEC members may use the Federal Record Retention Guide to guide their HR-record-retention efforts. How do you separate informal “non-essential” emails from the “must keep” HR email records? To solve this puzzle, HR must partner with IT staff to develop email retention protocols that meet legal obligations and practical operational needs.

What is your HR record-keeping policy for emails? If you don’t have one, it is time to get started! MSEC helps members with HR record-keeping guidelines with resources at, classes, and consultation.

Please consult a subject matter expert for other business operations (e.g. Accounting, IT, Tax, etc.) to determine their unique record-keeping requirements.