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Written by: Brian Dix

Date published: March 15, 2017

Reading time: 4 Minutes


Employers are required under both state and federal laws to keep records containing information about their employees. The federal laws that address employer recordkeeping include the Federal Insurance Contribution Act, the Equal Pay Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Wisconsin law imposes several recordkeeping requirements which operate in addition to, or in conjunction with, federal requirements. Wisconsin law requires employers to keep general employee records as well as records pertaining to:

  • Employment of minors
  • Overtime payments and minimum wage
  • Workers’ compensation and work-related injuries
  • Unemployment compensation

This Employment Law Summary provides a high-level overview of recordkeeping requirements in Wisconsin and covers only generally applicable requirements. Additional industry-specific requirements may exit for your business.

General Recordkeeping Requirements for Employers

Payroll and personnel data records must be kept for all employees, including salaried employees, and the records must be kept safe and accessible. Copies of employee records can be kept where each employee reports for work or at one or more established central record keeping offices in the state of Wisconsin. Records must be maintained for at least three years.

Employers must make the records available for inspection and transcription by authorized Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) officials during general business hours.

In order to satisfy general recordkeeping obligations, as well as the requirements imposed by Wisconsin’s child labor, overtime and minimum wage laws, each employee file must contain the employee’s:

  • Name an address
  • Social Security Number
  • Date of birth and child labor permit (if applicable)
  • First and last day of employment
  • Beginning and ending of each work day
  • Beginning and ending of meal periods
  • Total number of hours worked per day and per week
  • Rate of pay and wages paid each payroll period
  • Payroll deductions (amount and reason for each deduction)
  • Production level, if paid on other than time basis

Workers’ Compensation Recordkeeping Requirements

            Accident Records

Employers with three or more employees and employers subject to Wisconsin’s Workers’ Compensation Act must keep record of all accidents that cause employee disability or death. These accident records must include:

  • The employee’s name, address, and age
  • The employee’s wages at the time of injury
  • The time and causes of the accident
  • The nature and extent of the injury

Reports based upon these records must be furnished to the DWD when requested or required by law.

            Benefit Payment Records

Employers must maintain records of all employee benefit payments indicating the amount of the benefit paid to each employee and the time and manner of payment. These records must be true and accurate.

Employers are required to submit reports based on these records to the DWD when requested or required by law.

Unemployment Insurance Recordkeeping Requirements

Under Wisconsin unemployment insurance law, employers must keep accurate employee records to ensure employer compliance with unemployment compensation laws and employee eligibility for benefits. Any employer that employs one or more individuals to perform work in Wisconsin is subject to these recordkeeping requirements.

For each employee, the record must contain the employee’s:

  • Full name
  • Address
  • Social Security Number
  • Wages paid for each quarter
  • Any salary reduction that would have been paid by the employer as salary.

Employers must make these records, and any other records that may show wages paid by the employer, available for examination by DWD representatives at any reasonable time. If the employer maintains records in a machine-readable format, it must provide the DWD with the necessary information to retrieve the record.

Any person who knowingly makes a false statement or representation or who knowingly refuses or fails to keep any record required by the DWD for unemployment compensation purposes, to obtain (or prevent) any benefit for himself, herself or another is subject to a fine of between $100 and $500, imprisonment for up to 90 days or both. Each false statement is considered a separate offense.

Employee’s Right to Inspect Records

Under Wisconsin law, employees have the right to view and inspect their personnel files and employers must make the files available within seven days of the request. Employers can require the request be made in writing. However, employers are not required to allow an employee to inspect his/her records more than twice per year.

The files must be available during working hours and at a location reasonably close to the employer’s place of business so they are not forced to miss work time. If employees would be forced to miss work time to inspect the records, employers may provide some other reasonable time for inspection.

Employers that violate an employees’ right to inspect his or her personnel file are subject to a fine of between $10 and $100 for each day they fail to comply

Records Available to Employees

Employers have the right to inspect their personnel files and a number of other documents. It applies to any documents that are used, or have been used, to determine qualifications for employment, promotion, transfer, additional compensation, termination or other disciplinary action and medical records.


An employee’s right to access personnel records do not apply to:

  • Records regarding the investigation of possible criminal offenses committed by the employee
  • Letters of reference for the employee
  • Any portion of a test the employee has taken (except that the employee may see a cumulative total score for either a section of the test document or for the entire document)
  • Material used for staff management planning, including judgements for recommendations concerning future salary increases, management bonus plans, promotions and job assignments or other comments or ratings used for the employer’s planning purpose
  • Information of a personal nature about a person other than the employee, if disclosure would constitute and invasion of that other person’s privacy
  • Records relevant to any other pending claim between the employer and the employee that may be discovered in a judicial proceeding.

More Information

Contact Infinity Benefit Solutions, Inc. for more information on unique Wisconsin HR concerns or other employment issue inquiries at 414-271-2887.


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