Any company that keeps medical records on an employee has to keep them private and separated from other records, according to the legal website Nolo. This especially applies if an employee is covered through the Americans with Disabilities Act. But sometimes these medical records will need to be seen under certain strict circumstances. How long you keep them on file when an employee leaves depends on certain timetables created by the federal government.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires you to keep medical records on an employee who may get exposed to toxic substances on the job. OHSA says these records have to be kept on file for the entire time the employee works for your company, plus 30 years after. Exceptions to this will be any medical files you had separately from your medical program; any records of first-aid treatments that didn’t require more extensive medical treatment; and files on employees working for your company for less than a year. An employee working for you less than a year, however, will need you to give him his medical records when he leaves.
Exceptions to Employee Toxin Exposure
OSHA says certain reports related to a possible toxic exposure of an employee don’t always have to be kept for 30 years. For instance, a lab report that details environmental information on the toxins needs to only be kept for one year. Only the pertinent medical information on the employee exposed to a toxin needs to be kept for the 30-year interim. Also, all information on the identification of the toxic substances doesn't have to be kept, other than records identifying the direct name of the toxin itself.
When You Go Out of Business
If you go out of business, OSHA says that all medical records on your employees should be turned over to the person or entity buying your business. In the scenario of your business closing with no one taking over, contact all your former employees three months before you close, and allow them access to their medical records. In addition, you must transfer your medical records to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. As an option through the same institute, you can write the director and tell him in writing that you’re disposing of the medical records three months before you go out of business.
Keeping Medical Records for the IRS
In a different scenario, you have to keep past medical records on your employees for tax purposes. The IRS says that you only have to keep these records until the period of limitations is up — or a period of time that the IRS may need them to revise your tax returns. If the IRS finds out you owe additional taxes, you must keep employee records for three years. If you didn’t report certain parts of your income and it exceeds 25 percent of your gross income shown on your tax return, employee records must be kept for six years. For those who file later to claim a refund or credit, employee records need to be kept for three years, or two years after the taxes were paid. Those who file taxes claiming a loss from securities will need to keep records for seven years.
The IRS points out that you may need to keep the medical records on file longer for circumstances beyond taxes. Sometimes insurance companies and creditors will require you to keep these records much longer. Contact your insurance company or your creditor, if possible, to see what they require.