Employers: Are Your Labor Law Posters Up to Date?

Federal, state and local changes may prompt revisions to workplace postings

Employers: Are Your Labor Law Posters Up to Date?

A new year brings new workplace compliance standards—which means that employers may need to revise their labor law posters.

All employers are required to post certain notices to employees in a conspicuous location in the workplace—such as in the breakroom, by a time clock or in another place where employees are likely to see them. The required posters cover information such as federal and state minimum wages and occupational safety and health regulations.

Only certain employers are required to post some notices. For example, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act notice must be posted by covered employers with 50 or more workers.

"Employers should not be shy about conferring with counsel about any updates in the law," said Franklin Wolf, an attorney with Fisher Phillips in Chicago. Federal law may apply uniformly, but businesses may also be subject to more stringent state—and even city and county—standards.

Laws applicable to employers may change at a rapid pace and without much mainstream news coverage, Wolf noted.  "This is particularly true for state and local laws."

[SHRM members-only multistate coverage: Multistate Employer Resources]

Consulting with counsel may lead to a more detailed compliance discussion, said Aaron Warshaw, an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in New York City.  "For example, you may start a call asking about the poster requirements under New York state law, but the attorney may say, 'Hey, by the way …,' and you end up talking about the recently enacted New York City Fair Workweek Law."

Costly Mistakes

Failure to comply with posting requirements can result in steep fines. Most federal, state and local penalties range from $500 to $10,000 per offense, but agencies retain discretion about whether to assess or reduce such statutory penalties, Warshaw explained. 

The Illinois Victims' Economic Security and Safety Act, for example, can be enforced by the state Department of Labor. If the department reviews an employee's complaint and finds in favor of the employee, it may order an audit of the employer's policies and practices in addition to assessing fines, Wolf said.  "As a result, compliance with a statute's notice requirements is highly recommended."

Furthermore, penalties may escalate after the first offense.

New Laws

Employers should note that recently enacted laws for 2018 may include a posting requirement.

"Multistate employers will not be surprised to hear that most new poster requirements are in jurisdictions such as California and New York," Warshaw said. 

For example, effective Jan. 1, California's S.B. 396 requires employers with 50 or more employees to add gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation harassment prevention training to their supervisor training programs. Under the new law, all employers in the state will need to post a transgender rights notice in the workplace.

New York's paid-family-leave law, which took effect on Jan. 1, requires employers to post a proof of coverage certificate.

New York City and San Francisco also have new posting requirements that will take effect later in the year.

Furthermore, many states and municipalities increased their minimum wages effective Jan. 1, which requires employers to update their wage and hour posters with the correct 2018 rates. 

Although the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs recently issued a reminder to federal contractors to post the "Equal Employment Opportunity [EEO] is the Law" poster, employers are unlikely to see any significant additions or changes to federal posters under the current administration, Warshaw noted.

Posters Matter

"Whenever a client asks me to handle an onsite inspection by a government agency, one of the first steps I take is [to] examine the site's workplace posters," Warshaw said. "If a government investigator sees that the employer has not updated its EEO and wage and hour posters since the Bush administration, then he or she may reasonably conclude that the employer's general employment practices have not been updated either." 

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