How long should you keep that application from a rejected candidate?

Proper record retention is critical in defending yourself against charges of discrimination.
Proper record retention is critical in defending yourself against charges of discrimination.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced they have filed suit against the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Mobile, Alabama. The suit, filed on September 30, 2015 alleges that the company refused to hire a qualified candidate because she was female. The EEOC is seeking monetary relief in the form of back pay, front pay, compensatory and punitive damages, hiring into the position wrong­fully denied and an injunction against future discrimination. In addition to the discrimination on two positions the EEOC says the company failed to preserve “all application materials related to those positions” thus the company violated federal record-keeping laws.

What are the EEOC record-keeping laws?

The unfortunate mistake that many companies make is that after rejecting a candidate, whom they are pretty sure they are not going to ever hire, they get rid of the paperwork involved in that hiring decision. The EEOC requires that the paperwork needs to be kept for at least a year after the employment decision is made. This means that the application needs to be stored for a year after the decision is made to not pursue that candidate.
With the candidate you do pursue, whom you email, phone call, interview, and accept a resume from, the time to preserve that paperwork gets extended. If it takes you two months before the decision is made not to further pursue the candidate then that paperwork needs to be retained for a year plus that additional two months. It is not just the application and resume but any interview notes, any emails associated with the candidate, any assessments conducted and the business case for rejecting the candidate.

The mistake made

This is what the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Mobile is being charged with in this case. It failed to retain any paperwork in the rejection of the female candidate. The EEOC was unable to obtain any paperwork that either defended the company or proved the EEOC case. As a result the company was sued for the discrimination and for having violated the recordkeeping requirements.
Make sure you keep those employment documents from candidates for at least a year. Yes it can be burdensome, but that is why you have a process in place that helps you define who is going to be actually considered an applicant. I offer some guidance here.
Rejecting candidates for discriminatory reasons is never a good thing to do. Claiming that you didn’t and not being able to prove it because you purged the paperwork is never a good thing either. Whatever the situation is with this case try not to make the same mistake, it makes you look guilt and it adds an additional charge for not following the law.

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