Record Retention Laws: Litigation Happens. Here’s Help.

What’s one of the most compelling reasons to create a retention schedule and stick to it? The law. More specifically, record retention laws. In Part 2 of our exclusive interview, we ask records pro Helen Streck about how our record retention schedules can keep us organized in case of any litigation that may come your way.

Hey, litigation can happen to any of us. Better to be prepared with a record retention schedule in place than be caught completely off guard and responsible for handing over all of your documents. At least, that’s what our expert would recommend.

If you’re still not sold on creating a record retention schedule, or haven’t gotten around to it yet, this part of the interview may light a fire under you.

Q. What is the middle ground between holding on to records or destroying them?

A. You have to find the right ground. The ones that makes the news are the ones that throw things away too early and do it nefariously. What you don’t hear in the news are the employees who’ve kept all of their emails and all of their records and now all of that has to be searched. That doesn’t make the news. Our experience is an organization over keeps not under keeps. (Employees) just didn’t know. They didn’t have the process to tell them: these are the documents you have to store and for how long.

Q. If I have a retention schedule, will I then be able to explain why documents were destroyed or not destroyed?

A. I’ve been deposed four times. They didn’t question me on retention periods but ask me how do employees know to stop the retention schedule because you’re in litigation.

Q. So, having a policy doesn’t mean everyone’s following it or knows that it exists?

A. You can’t tell them once and expect them to remember. You have to send them a reminder. There are basic steps you can take to get started on record retention awareness.

Q. How does a retention schedule help when it comes to legal action?

A.With a retention schedule, you have all your information divided into categories of information, so you can ask the attorneys, “Which of these categories do you need for this legal matter?” You have a justifiable answer if someone asks why you don’t have that (when you have a record retention schedule in place). Those are justifiable, defensible steps. I don’t see people sanctioned for doing what they thought was right.

Q. How often should a policy be reviewed or updated?

A.If you review record retention laws and your policy on a yearly basis, it should only take a few hours to update it. Businesses change. Technology changes. We constantly improve, change and try to do things better in our professions. That’s what makes us competitive.