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What are the labor law poster requirements for employers with a multilingual workforce?

According  to the U.S. Department of Labor's poster FAQs, "With a few exceptions (FMLA, MSPA and Executive Order 13496), the U.S. Department of Labor's regulations do not require posting of notices in Spanish or other languages. However, we encourage you to post the posters that are available in other languages on the Poster Topic page if employees in your workforce speak other languages."

While most federal and state labor law posters are not required to be posted in other languages, some laws do require it. In addition, some agencies indicate that employees should be able to "readily read" the poster and it is generally recommended that labor law posters are provided in languages the employer's workforce understands.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) regulations state, "Where an employer's workforce is comprised of a significant portion of workers who are not literate in English, the employer shall provide the general notice in a language in which the employees are literate." See FMLA regulation 825.300, (4).

While no similar regulation exists for the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) poster, the Department of Labor (DOL) advises, "Although there is no size requirement for the poster, employees must be able to readily read it" and goes on to list the languages the poster is provided in, adding, "There is no requirement to post the poster in languages other than English." 

Likewise, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) posts on its website, "Posting of the notice in languages other than English is not required, but OSHA encourages employers with workers that speak other languages to also display the other relevant versions of the poster." 

While regulations will dictate when posters must be provided in other languages, agency recommendations can all but rise to the level of making it a requirement for the prudent employer. Each employer must check each poster requirement to determine whether other languages are actually required.

State laws and agencies make similar requirements and recommendations. Some states and localities, including but not limited to Arizona, California, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Tennessee, include regulatory requirements for posters to be posted in Spanish when a certain percentage of the workforce uses English as a second language. Additionally, at least 43 states publish bilingual posters further suggesting that the recommendation is nearly universal to post in a language readily understood by all employees. See SHRMStore: Labor Law Posters.

So, why should employers provide posters in other languages if they aren't legally obligated to? Safety is one obvious reason for posting OSHA and other similar notices in languages employees can understand. But HR also needs to ensure employees are paid for all hours worked and treated without unlawful discrimination; therefore, having those posters in as many languages as needed can only help to ensure that all employees have access to and understand these workplace rights. 


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