Firehouse Postings of Current Labor Laws

By John K. Murphy

A visit to each of your line stations (and headquarters, shops, and so on) may reveal poster boards of differing sizes depicting a variety of contents and revision dates pertaining to federal and state labor laws on display in each facility. Is that a problem? It can be. The feds can impose fines of multiple thousands of dollars (29 USC Section 666(i) and also section 2005). The regulations require a complete display of the current edition of the law. The display must not be defaced or damaged and must be fully visible (nothing should be on top of the information).

Your state has similar requirements for certain laws and summary information that must be clearly posted in employee work areas. State notices routinely include the topics of minimum wage amounts; unemployment insurance benefits; antidiscrimination, job safety, and health protection information; and likely others.
 
The federal set of postings regarding the IRS withholding and earned income credit was updated in January 2010. Minimum wage posting requirements were updated in July 2009. There are many other notices, including “right to know,” certain emergency contact numbers, employee polygraph protection notice, and others–each with an effective date–that requires posting by law.
 
ACTION STEPS
 
Now may be the time to give an assignment to one of your officers to visit every station to assess your postings situation. Are there any missing? What are the revision dates? Are other bulletins, flyers, job postings, union pieces, public education pieces competing for space on the OFFICIAL NOTICES board? Is the board too small to accommodate all that is required? Should another board be mounted for department notices and other information? This may seem simple, but are there enough push pins remaining to properly post notices side by side so that they don’t overlay each other? Is there an official note stating that no other items may be posted on this board or in this area?
 
1. Contact your office products supplier and confirm they have the most current edition available for purchase. Another resource I use is an online compliance service such as www.personnelconcepts.com. This site gives a fairly thorough rundown of what is needed, provides separate state and federal laminated posters, and even will combine your state with federal postings all in one larger laminated poster. Dimensions are provided for planning purposes so you can get the mounting board needed for full display compliance.
 
2.  Post an action item to your electronic calendar early next year for follow-up verification that displays are still up-to-date.
 
3. Issue a memorandum or notice describing what items/revisions must be posted, and make station officers responsible for keeping the poster board in shape and looking sharp for visitors–official and otherwise. Provide a key contact office/name/number to obtain replacements and updates.
 
All these actions should reduce the chance of an audit writeup, fine, or employee complaint–even a legal argument in a human resources employee action case!
 
To complete your compliance checks, make sure your material safety data sheets information is available in each building where applicable compounds may be found.
 
Although this may seem to be just another mundane administrative task, it carries the force of law and should be an integral part of your management oversight. 
 

John K. Murphy has been a career member of the fire service for 32 years. He retired as a deputy fire chief with Eastside (WA) Fire & Rescue in Issaquah, Washington, and the fire chief of the City of Sammamish (WA). He is an attorney whose focus is on employment practices liability, policy, internal investigations, and firefighter health and safety. He is an expert witness and consultant on risk management for private and public entities. He lectures and writes on fire service topics related to company officer operations, organizational liability, and personnel issues.

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