Here's what trashing resumes, applications can cost you

A recent settlement of an EEOC lawsuit is a powerful reminder of just how important it is to retain job seekers’ application materials — and what it can cost if you fail to. 
Last fall, HR Morning reported that Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Mobile, an Alabama-based subsidiary of Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated, was being sued by the EEOC.
The agency claimed that soda maker and bottler twice violated federal law when it refused to hire Martina Owes.
Specifically, the EEOC accused Coca-Cola of:

  • Sex discrimination. The EEOC claimed Coke violated the Civil Rights Act when it refused to hire Owes. It said the company hired two less-qualified men to fill vacant warehouse positions over Owes, despite the fact that she had all of the warehouse and forklift experience required for the positions.
  • Recordkeeping violations. The agency also claimed Coke violated federal recordkeeping requirements by not preserving all of the application materials related to those positions.

The agency sued only after attempts to reach a settlement through its conciliation process failed.
But, apparently, Coke had a change of heart while preparing its defense strategy. The EEOC just announced that it has reached a settlement with the Mobile bottling plant.

What’s it going to cost?

Coca-Cola has agreed to pay Owes $35,000 to settle all the charges against it.
The terms of the settlement also dictate that Coke:

  • cease from future discrimination
  • conduct annual anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation training of its Mobile employees for three years
  • develop new or revised anti-discrimination policies
  • create a new or revised written hiring process, and
  • designate a director-level employee to coordinate its compliance with anti-discrimination laws and compliance with the settlement decree.

What you must keep, and for how long

This case highlights the importance of retaining application materials.
Chances are when the EEOC starts snooping around for wrongdoing in your hiring process, it’s going to request all of your hiring materials — past and present. And you’d better be able to produce them, or expect the agency to file charges.
That brings us to the $35,000 questions:

  • How long do you have to keep application materials? The rule under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act is a minimum of one year. But if you’re aware the applicant is over 40, it’s smart to retain them for at least two years. This rule also applies to resumes, references checks and background check materials.
  • What about personnel and employment records? The EEOC requires you to keep them on file for at least a year.
  • Payroll records? Three years.

Now if your company is being charged — or you suspect it will be — with some form of wrongdoing, then you’ve got to keep all of these materials until the matter is resolved.