Email Retention and Records Management

If you're struggling with the need to develop an email and records retention policy, you're not alone. You have to know what and how you have to do it and understand your organization's specific needs. This week's articles should get you on your way to an effective retention policy.

This post explains how to begin addressing one of the thorniest issues of document management and information governance; email and electronic communication. (Item #1)     Have you read about a recent business litigation case that depended on email correspondence to win? Probably. (Item #2)     While there is no specific FFIEC regulatory mandate for archiving, there are three reasons why you might want to consider archiving. (Item #3)    

States need to do a better job of preserving electronic communications, both for transparency and historical value. (Item #4)     It's important for employers to be familiar with all relevant federal and state record retention laws. (Item #5)     When the question of ROI for business continuity planning arises, keep in mind that it is the wrong question to ask. (Item #6)    

As always, I look forward to hearing about your concerns with regard to business continuity. If there are any topics that you'd like to see covered, email me at

Bob Mellinger, President
Attainium Corp

1. Seven Factors to Consider Before Creating an Email Retention Policy

Even after a policy has been implemented, an executive may ask a lawyer, "What should I do about e-mail?" A number of years ago I was asked to advise a client what factors it should consider regarding e-mail retention. The considerations are the same today as they were when I first advised this client. They are: business needs, legal requirements, organizational culture, approaches to retention policies, litigation holds, automation, and implementation.

2. It's Time to Revisit Records Management for Email

While the high costs associated with searching for electronic documents that aren't easily located are well documented in these stories, many businesses still neglect proper records management and retention and organization of electronic information, particularly email. According to the American Bar Association, "Despite the fact that electronic data is permanent, nearly indestructible, and easily transferable, the public at large continues to view email and other electronic communications with an air of informality that was rarely associated with traditional professional letters or memoranda." If this is the case at your business, it's time to take another look at how you manage your emails.

3. Comprehensive Guide to Email Retention Policy

By implementing a process that captures inbound and outbound email messages of our organization, we can protect ourselves against unwarranted claims by providing these digital records. This process of capturing and searching the emails is called email archiving. Regulators and courts treat email messages as written documents. Managing these email messages as business records assures that we meet the burden of proof of regulations such as the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. This regulation requires every corporate litigant to recognize, declare and produce emails in civil litigation.

4. Save or Delete? Official Email Policies Vary By State

Every state has policies governing how long records are saved and when they can be purged--if ever. But those retention policies vary greatly across states. Often employees have to determine on their own whether to keep or delete an email. Many media and open government advocates fear that valuable information may disappear in states that allow email to be disposed of quickly and routinely.

5. Document Retention and Record Retention Laws

HR departments receive, generate, and accumulate substantial volumes of documents such as job postings, employment applications, resumes, reference checks, testing data, personnel files, wage and hour records, payroll records, and disciplinary files. While it would be nice to purge those documents when the filing cabinet becomes crowded, a myriad of federal, state, and local laws and regulations require that certain personnel records, whether stored electronically or on paper, be kept for a specified period of time and even well after the termination of an employee's employment.

6. Archiving vs. retention of email and other electronic data

Now, retention vs. archiving: Think of an archive as a non-alterable backup. Some archive solutions also add a search feature, but the key is that the data cannot be deleted or modified in any way. So why consider archiving instead of simple retention? Three reasons.

Quote of the Week:

"If a company is not making decisions about records retention at the organizational level, then it is leaving it up to individual employees to make ad hoc decisions about what is kept and deleted, and is likely increasing its long-term legal risks and costs."

-- Jay Yurkiw
Technology Law Source

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