Workplace notices: Are your labor-law posters out of date?
THE LAW. The U.S. Labor Depart-ment and each state government require employers to post certain employment-law information that ex-plains employees' rights and responsibilities. You also must make sure your federal and state posters are up to date to comply with current standards.
WHAT'S NEW. Determining which posters Labor requires and when to replace them can be tricky because required postings change frequently. For example, starting March 10, U.S. employers should be posting a new notice on military-leave rights.
Compliance can also be costly, particularly for employers with operations in multiple states. The average em-ployer spends up to $1,000 a year in employee time to track, order and follow through on labor-law posting compliance issues.
In addition to federal rules, state posting requirements vary widely and change often. Example: Florida currently requires four state-law posters, while California requires 12.
Among the most commonly altered state posting rules: minimum-wage increases, new smoking restrictions, workers' comp revisions, unemployment insurance updates, child-labor law changes and whistle-blower protection rules.
HOW TO COMPLY. All employers, re-gardless of their size or industry, must post some federal labor-law notices. Other posters apply only to those in certain industries or those who meet certain employee-count threshold.
When you tack up posters, you must put them in a prominent place where they can be readily seen by employees and applicants. That's why many employers choose to post notices in more than one high-traffic location, such as lunchrooms, break rooms, meeting rooms and in your HR offices. In some cases, if your employees don't speak fluent English, you must provide your notices in their languages.
The big five
Here are the five main federal poster requirements:
1. Equal employment opportunity. This poster explains employees' and applicants' rights to be hired and work free from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability.
2. Federal minimum wage. You must post this notice if you employ anyone covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which currently re-quires a $5.15 per hour minimum wage. Many states set their own higher minimums. The poster also covers federal child labor and overtime rules.
3. Job safety and health protection. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires this posting, which outlines your responsibility to provide employees with a safe workplace.
4. Employee Polygraph Protection Act. This federal notice prohibits most private employers from subjecting applicants or employees to a lie-detector test.
5. FMLA. This notice applies to covered employers, private employers who employ 50 or more workers, as well as public agencies and schools, and explains eligible employees' right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for qualifying circumstances.
In addition to those mandatory posters, if you employ workers with disabilities and you pay them under special minimum-wage certificates, you must post notices of those wage rights. Plus, agricultural employers and farm-labor contractors who em-ploy migrant or seasonal agricultural workers must post a notice of employees' rights under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protec-tion Act.
The Labor Department offers free, downloadable copies of required posters at its Web site, as do many state labor agencies.
- Federal rules: Find compliance advice and downloadable posters at the Labor Department's poster site, www.dol.gov/osbp/sbrefa/ poster/main.htm or access the agency's Poster Advisor site at www.dol.gov/elaws.poster.htm. Small employers should go to www.dol.gov/osbp/sbrefa/poster/matrix.htm.
State rules: Access state-specific posting information and links to each state's workplace poster sites at www.ngelaw.com/resource/ workplacepostings2004.asp.
Latest requirement: New USERRA poster
The new poster requirement was included in the Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 2004, signed into law in December. You can print the one-page poster from the U.S. Labor Department's Web site, www.dol.gov/vets.