Compliance Q&A

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. For a more comprehensive answer, you can call us at (877) 929-0811 or use our online submission form

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.

What is the real risk of EEOC-related law suits for a small business like mine?

Harassment and discrimination can occur in any business, regardless of size. Businesses are more likely to be sued by a current or former employee than be inspected by a government agency. As such, complying with anti-discrimination laws is critical for all employers, including small businesses. While some of the laws enforced by the EEOC apply only to businesses with 15 or more employees, every state enforces anti-discrimination laws that apply to businesses with less than 15 employees.

The minimum wage is higher for my state than the federal minimum wage. Why do I have to post the federal minimum wage notice?

The federal minimum wage is a provision of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which is the nation’s predominant wage and hour law. Most businesses are dually covered by the FLSA and state wage and hour laws. Since the FLSA federal minimum wage notice also includes information on child labor standards, overtime rules, and payroll requirements that apply to all employers, businesses are obligated to display the notice even in states where the state minimum wage rate exceeds the federal wage.

All of my employees earn more than the minimum wage. Why do I still have to post the state and federal minimum wage notices?

Minimum wage notices are mandatory to post regardless of the current pay rates and salary levels of your employees. These notices often include information above and beyond the minimum wage rate, including payday information, record keeping requirements, child labor standards, overtime rates and exemptions, and enforcement information.

All of my employees get paid more than minimum wage. Why do I still have to post the state and federal minimum wage notices?

Minimum wage notices are mandatory to post regardless of the current pay rates and salary levels of your employees. These notices often include information above and beyond the minimum wage rate, including payday information, record keeping requirements, child labor standards, overtime rates and exemptions, and enforcement information.

None of my employees is in the military. Why do I still have to post the USERRA notices in my business?

The USERRA notice is a mandatory notification requirement that pertains to all businesses. It must be provided in writing to individuals who are entitled to rights and benefits under the Act. While most of USERRA’s provisions apply to active and inactive service members, other classes of individuals (including job applicants with military experience, any veterans of the uniformed services, and individuals who are interested in joining a uniformed service) are also entitled to certain USERRA rights and benefits. As such, since the DOL’s Office of Veterans Employment and Training Services (VETS) allows employers to post the notice as a means of compliance, employers are recommended to display it even if they are not aware of any current employees or applicants that are covered by the Act. This approach guarantees compliance as opposed to risking non-compliance by not posting or distributing the notice to all employees and applicants.

If I have an OSHA-compliant general Health and Safety Plan (Injury and Illness Prevention Plan) why do I need all of the other OSHA compliance materials you recommend?

A safety and health program (or injury and illness prevention program) is a systematic means of reducing or preventing work-related injuries and illnesses from occurring. If the plan is deemed OSHA compliant by a safety consultant or certified safety professional, you may not need any of Personnel Concepts’ safety compliance products unless you want to supplement your program with posted notices and employee training materials available from our firm. In most cases, having a safety and health program in place is not sufficient to ensure full compliance with all OSHA standards. Many standards require specific documentation, procedures, equipment, and training. Your safety program may lack certain required elements, or you may be required to display certain signs, labels, and tags required by various OSHA standards.

Is it possible to be in compliance without buying products from a company like Personnel Concepts?

Yes. Employers can research compliance requirements themselves, obtain information and notices from enforcing agencies, contract with consultants when necessary for self-audits, draft policies and training programs, and consult with an attorney for legal advice. Complying with applicable laws can be a costly, time-consuming process (particularly for someone who does not have a safety or HR background), which is why Personnel Concepts and other companies seek to provide simplified, low-cost, plain language compliance solutions.

What is the benefit of the State and Federal Labor Law Poster Subscription or OSHA Safety Notification Poster Subscription? Can't I just buy the poster and update it myself?

Our subscription services provide proactive, guaranteed, worry-free compliance and up-to-date information on regulatory changes. Non-subscribers have to react to notifications by mail, fax, and phone of a change in posting requirements or employment law. Our subscription services ensure that you receive the revised information automatically, and are thus backed by our “We Pay the Fine” Reimbursement Guarantee. If we fail to send you updated posters within 90 days after a mandatory revision occurs, and you are fined by an enforcing agency, we will reimburse you for the full fine amount. Our core labor law subscription also ensures that you are kept up to date on major court decisions, new regulations, legal revisions, and other pertinent activity with our quarterly newsletter.

Why am I required to address Hazcom, MSDS, et cetera, if I don't have a factory, warehouse or production facility?

Even retail establishments and offices may have certain chemicals present in their facility (print toner, industrial strength cleaning supplies, etc) that may be covered by OSHA’s chemical safety establishments. Additionally, OSHA has estimated that over 7 million worksites are covered by the hazard communication standard, which means that many low-hazard, non-industrial, non-manufacturing sites have to comply. To determine whether you are exempt from OSHA’s hazard communication standard, you must inventory every chemical or substance present in your facility and compare it to OSHA’s list of hazardous chemicals. If none of the chemicals or substances is listed, you are exempt. Unfortunately, this is a laborious and often confusing process, so many businesses voluntarily comply even though they are not a high-hazard employer.

Some of the products you recommend are not required postings. Why do I need a poster from you if it's not required that I post this information?

Notification and communication are critical elements of ensuring a 100% compliant workplace. In many cases, employers are obligated to notify their employees in writing about a specific right or obligation, but are not specifically required to display a poster. Our posters comply with notification requirements and communicate critical policy statements on issues that pose direct legal risks to employers. In this respect, these posters are similar to workplace policies. Most employment laws do not require an employer to implement workplace policies, but employers do so at the urging of legal counsel to mitigate their legal risks. Our notification and warning posters can communicate or supplement a workplace policy. This system of notification and communication demonstrates good-faith compliance and can be used in your favor during an audit, inspection, or lawsuit.

It seems like Personnel Concepts is either calling me or sending me something in the mail constantly. Why am I contacted so frequently?

Our goal is to help your business achieve 100% compliance with applicable employment laws and safety regulations. To accomplish this goal, we must ensure that you are notified about your legal obligations and risk areas. We are also committed to ensuring that you are using/displaying the most up-to-date version of our product and are informed of the various revisions and regulatory updates that occur. As such, you may receive multiple direct mail notices during the course of the year from our firm. You are under no obligation to respond to these notices, as our goal is to simply keep you informed. If you would like to be contacted by means other than direct mail and telephone, or if you have a specific preference about how to receive notification of updates (i.e. phone only, mail only, etc.), please contact our Customer Service department to inquire other notification options.

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