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Compliance Q&A

Over the years Personnel Concepts customer service representatives have fielded a number of common questions that current and prospective clients ask frequently.

People frequently want to know which labor law posters are required and which are optional, and the same regarding COBRA, HIPAA, OSHA, USERRA and other programs and regulations.

Our Compliance Q&A has been developed from a list of the most common questions asked of our Customer Service department and our sales force. The answers here are meant to be easy-to-read, to-the-point responses. For a more comprehensive answer, you may need to e-mail or call us at (800) 333-3795. Also, if you have questions you'd like to see addressed here in print, please e-mail us.

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We are a tax exempt entity. What are the compliance requirements for our type of business?

Employment laws apply to all paid employees.  If you have any employees on payroll, regardless of whether you are tax exempt, you must still provide a safe working environment in accordance with OSHA standards, comply with wage and hour regulations, and prevent harassment or discrimination from occurring.  These obligations are imposed by state and federal laws, and may vary depending on your geographic location, number of employees, and industry type.

What are the guidelines to be "OSHA exempt," and what does that mean?

The term “OSHA exempt” typically refers to entities that are not obligated to maintain an OSHA Log 300, which is an annual log of work-related injuries and illnesses that is used by OSHA and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to calculate injury and illness rates.  Small businesses with less than 10 employees are generally exempt from this requirement, as well as low-hazard retail establishments.  Despite the fact that smaller, low-hazard businesses are exempt from Log 300 requirements, these entities must still comply with other OSHA standards addressing general safety and health.  Some standards, such as the Process Safety Management standard, only apply to specific types of businesses.  Other standards, like the General Environmental Controls standard, apply to all workplaces.  Ultimately, the only businesses that are generally exempt from all OSHA standards are family-owned and operated businesses with no outside employees.

We only have a few employees. Do we really have to have all of these compliance materials?

Many employment laws apply to businesses that have one or more non-family member employees on payroll.  Other laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (which prohibits employment discrimination), apply to businesses with 15 or more employees, though businesses with less than 15 employees are typically covered by a state anti-discrimination law that is similar to Title VII.  Generally speaking, OSHA regulations, labor law posting requirements, and wage and hour standards typically apply to all businesses with at least one employee on payroll.  Other laws (such as the Family and Medical Leave Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act) do not apply unless you have a specific number of employees.

Under what circumstances does a company get inspected, and who does the inspections?

Each of the major state and federal agencies that enforce employment laws are empowered to conduct audits, investigations, or inspections to determine whether a worksite is in compliance.  The frequency of these inspections, as well as their specific triggers, can vary by law and enforcing agency.  OSHA, for example, targets businesses with the nation’s highest injury and illness rates (typically, high hazard employers in the construction and manufacturing industries), but can inspect any business at any time due to a random inspection program, an employee complaint, or a workplace accident.  Other agencies, like the EEOC, are more reactive and only initiate an investigation upon receiving a complaint that is deemed to have merit. In general, your industry type, geographic locale, legal record, and number of employees are the primary predictors of the likelihood of being inspected, audited, or investigated.  Retail establishments are generally more susceptible to wage and hour audits, while manufacturing plans are typically more likely to be inspected by OSHA.

If I am inspected, don't they give me time to fix things before they fine me?

Enforcement policies vary by agency.  The investigator’s determination as to whether to issue a correctable citation or impose a specific fine is often based on the employer’s record of compliance and the severity of the violation.  OSHA’s enforcement policy is based on a system of classifying a violation as other-than-serious, serious, willful, or repeat.  State labor departments vary widely in how they enforce posting requirements, as some states are more likely to issue citations, while other states impose automatic fines.

We have a person in charge of safety. Do we really need to buy compliance products from a company like yours?

Having an on-site safety manager or EH&S manager does not necessarily eliminate the need for third-party compliance materials.  While certified safety professionals are intimately familiar with OSHA compliance requirements and are equipped with the knowledge needed to ensure full compliance, low-cost solutions from Personnel Concepts and other providers can save a significant amount of time and money when enacting major safety initiatives and training programs.  Many safety managers use third-party training materials, reference guides, and subscription services to help them achieve maximum performance.

Our insurance company/payroll company sends us compliance materials. Do we still need to get things from Personnel Concepts?

While some insurance companies and payroll services provide labor law and safety compliance materials to their clients, affected employers must understand precisely what they are receiving and which laws are addressed by these materials.  An employer who receives free labor law posters from a payroll company must still ensure that they are fully compliant with OSHA regulations and anti-discrimination laws.  A business that receives safety awareness materials from a workers’ compensation insurer must still ensure that they are fully compliant with wage and hour standards and other applicable laws.

I don't have room for all of this stuff on the walls. What should I do?

Labor law posting regulations mandate that state and federal labor law posters be posted conspicuously in an area frequented by employees during the normal course of the workday.  Employers who have little or no wall space (i.e. kiosks, mall carts, photo booths, etc) are generally allowed to make the posters available and accessible to the employee without posting them.  If your business has enough wall space to post the mandatory labor law information, but not enough to accommodate other Personnel Concepts notification and warning posters, ask one of our Compliance Specialists about available documentation forms, training handouts, and manuals that can help you meet your other compliance obligations without displaying additional posters.

How often are there changes to the compliance requirements - really?

The average employer can expect at least four meaningful employment law changes and two to three mandatory revisions to required labor law postings each year.  Based on our experience dating back to 1989, up to 30% of all required labor law notices are revised annually.   In addition to frequent posting revisions, state and federal agencies generally issue or revise two to four regulations per year that may affect an employer’s compliance obligations.  The U.S. Congress each session typically passes at least two major federal bills that pertain to virtually all employers.  In addition to this activity, enforcing agencies and state legislatures often introduce new regulations or bills that may pertain to a specific industry or type of work.

The local fire department comes out and provides fire safety training and materials to our business. Do we still have to have Fire Prevention and Emergency Action compliance materials?

Yes.  Compliance with local fire ordinances and fire code regulations may not necessarily guarantee compliance with OSHA’s specific administrative requirements as codified in applicable standards.  OSHA inspectors are trained to request copies of written fire safety and emergency action plans at the beginning of an inspection.  It is certainly possible for a business to pass a fire code inspection by the local fire department, but still receive a citation during an OSHA inspection for not having a compliant fire safety plan that meets the requirements of OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.39.

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