All records pertaining to ongoing or pending audits, lawsuits (or even reasonably anticipated lawsuits), or public record requests must not be destroyed, damaged, or altered until the issue is resolved and you are explicitly advised that such records may be destroyed.

Your duties under a destruction hold include the following:

  • Identify and locate all materials related to the matter
  • Suspend destruction of those records
  • Preserve responsive records in their original electronic format
  • Preserve hard copies if they exist, but do not make hard copies of electronic records

A destruction hold will take precedence over the normal retention period of any/all responsive records. You cannot damage, alter, or destroy records that may contain information reasonably related to the identified subject matter until the issue has been resolved and all parties are notified. Labeling, organizing and segregating the records on hold is accepted best practice.

Once locating all records matching the scope of a destruction hold, you must preserve them until you have received final notification confirming the matter is resolved. Although the process is the same, it can be confusing handling electronic records instead of physical records.  Not to fear, here are recommended best practices:

diagram showing that when a record's retention period ends during a hold, the record must be preserved, and when a record's retention period ends after a hold, no extra time is needed

Call to Action

Sometimes all it takes is a broad public record request, audit, investigation, or litigation to help you realize how disparate and complicated your existing filing system is. Use this opportunity to take steps for improvement.

Review our recommendations on file/folder naming conventions and our best practices for folder structures.