According to the Federal Records Act, developing a robust document retention schedule is the best way to set up a defensible e-discovery policy. There was a time when employers were confused about what e-discovery laws they had to abide by, and what the legal requirements were for keeping records and what employee files must be retained. However, these days most federal agencies have record retention requirements and even state agencies have requirements and laws that must be adhered to. These laws apply to government employers, government contractors and subcontractors.
The only way to properly ensure that you are in compliance with the laws is to have a proper documents retention program. E-discovery laws specify that all email messages in between employees, or those sent out by employees, must be kept for records. In addition to emails, all Word documents, Excel files, sound files, and other miscellaneous files are all admissible in court. These files have to be periodically recorded and kept in a secure location or database. As well as recording the data, there has to be a specific schedule detailing how long certain records will be retained for, and when they will be deleted.
When the court asks for these electronic records, a company must show that they were in compliance with the laws before the request was sent out. It is not sufficient to start recording and keeping a database of these files after the court order comes in, because if that is the case then a hefty fine could be hitting your firm. That is why the Federal Records Act urges firms to have a proper documents retention schedule.
Having the correct schedule is not an easy task. Keeping a record of paper documents is easy, because they can all be filed away. But when it comes to electronic documents, the data must be dealt with carefully so that it is not damaged or deleted, and that no disruption occurs in terms of the firm’s day-to-day functions. In order to have a proper documents retention schedule, you must have a specific team that is assigned with the task of retaining electronic documents.
Having the right documents retention schedule will not only keep you and your firm on the right side of the law, but it will also save you a lot of money in the event of a court order. Many firms have been fined in the past, Morgan Stanley the most notable example, for not complying with the new laws. Make sure your firm is never put in a similar situation.