(b)lines Ask the Experts – Record Retention for Governmental 403(b) Plans

“It is my understanding that retirement plans under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) are required to keep documents necessary to determine benefits as long as needed for benefit determination.

“I am working on a case involving denial of retirement service credits with Washington State Department of Retirement Systems (DRS). They seem to believe they cannot correct an error without timesheets. If that is the case, wouldn’t ERISA require them to have maintained those records? Is so, can you provide me with the regulation and or supportive case law?”


Stacey Bradford, with Groom Law Group, answers:


Your understanding regarding ERISA’s record retention policy for documents necessary to determine benefits is correct. Unfortunately, ERISA does not apply to governmental retirement plans. 


Instead, you likely need to look to the applicable plan documents, Washington’s state constitution, statutes, and case law, as well as common law regarding fiduciary standards. You can also analogize to ERISA and applicable case law. Audit requirements might also be useful. For example, the Washington State DRS website includes a FAQ for employers advising which records must be available for an audit.  Although record retention periods are not mentioned for every type of record, payroll and personnel files (including employee classification and payroll schedules) for individuals who have retired in the last four years (current year and prior three years) must be maintained.



NOTE: This feature is to provide general information only, does not constitute legal advice, and cannot be used or substituted for legal or tax advice.


Do YOU have a question for the Experts? If so, we would love to hear from you! Simply forward your question to Rebecca.Moore@strategic-i.com with Subject: Ask the Experts, and the Experts will do their best to answer your question in a future Ask the Experts column.