Q: Can I really be paperless? Is it ok to put various policies, contracts and other kinds of documents on our electronic systems rather than keeping paper copies?
A: In general, most documentation can be maintained in a purely electronic format and it will not be necessary for you to keep the underlying paper copies. There are some limited exceptions to this rule, including such things as original stock certificates, but in general electronic copies are fully acceptable. This is due in part to the Sign Act (Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act) which was enacted in June of 2000. Under this Act electronic signatures and documentation are valid if those electronic signatures are rendered by a person “with the intent to sign a record” and are reproducible.
One notable caveat is the I-9. While it is possible to create and store I-9s electronically, the government has published rules about how this must be done. Simply completing an I-9 in paper form and scanning it may not conform to these rules depending on how the records are stored electronically, who has access, and how changes are documented, among other considerations. Purchasing an electronic I-9 system may conform to the regulation, depending on whether the vendor’s system is compliant. Unfortunately, if it is not, the government will fine the employer – not the vendor – for non-compliance in the event of an audit. Liability for a vendor’s failure to comply should be addressed in the purchase agreement.
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