Take-a-PictureAh, employment law posters. They provide neither the laid-back vibe of a rock concert bill, nor the knowing amusement of a “Leaders are Like Eagles.” They’re the dull side of the cereal box, the fine print that tells about the niacin and the riboflavin. But they have one thing going for them that Jim Morrison and bald eagles don’t: You’re required by law to display them where your employees will see them, and keep them current when new versions are released.

The law doesn’t require that you keep the old posters when you put up the new ones. But employment law experts say it’s a good idea to retain some kind of proof that all of your old posters were once on display.

According to Aaron Warshaw, an attorney at Ogletree Deakins in New York City, the old posters can be relevant evidence in employment litigation, used to demonstrate that employees were informed of their legal rights. He recommends saving them in paper or electronic format and retaining them for at least the length of the statute of limitations­—three years for federal wage and hour posters, for example.

If you really want to be covered completely for compliance, take time-stamped pictures of the posters where they’re actually displayed, advises attorney Jay Hux, of Fisher Phillips in Chicago. In a potential lawsuit, this may help to show that the posters were properly displayed in the workplace at the time and place that they employer says they were.

Displaying Your Current Employment Law Posters

Hux recommends placing electronic posters on the company intranet, where employees—especially telecommuters—will see them. Posters should ideally be located in more than one location: in break rooms, at the entrance to the work area, and wherever employees clock in or otherwise gather. If there’s a work location away from the main facility, like a construction site, make sure posters are displayed there as well.

If English is not the first language for a significant number of employees, make sure there are posters that use the primary language of those workers.

And review your poster displays regularly to make sure that everything is up to date.

The Costs of Non-Compliance

All this fuss over posters may seem petty. But the potential penalties and other costs are anything but.

These are the current penalties for first offenses in failing to display federal posters:

  • $12,675 for failure to display the Occupational Safety and Health Administration poster
  • $534 for failure to post the Equal Employment Opportunity poster
  • $100 for failure to display the Family and Medical Leave Act poster

And penalties increase if the violation is found to be willful, which can occur after a first offense.

Which brings us back to the importance of those old posters and time-dated photographs. They’re not only useful as evidence in lawsuits, they also help to establish that a company is thorough and serious about compliance, which goes a long way with government investigators.

“Getting the correct posters displayed is important for compliance but also because it shows that the company is focused on getting the details right,” said Warshaw. “If you are in the middle of a wage and hour audit with the U.S. Department of Labor and the investigator points out outdated posters, the agency may assess a penalty, but more so it may create a sense that the company is somewhat lackadaisical in its compliance efforts. Conversely, if an employer has the correct posters displayed, then it may create some good will and trust with an investigator.”

You may never get too excited about your old employment law posters—or having time-stamped photographs of them. But your lawyers will be relieved to know that they’re there if you need them.

Have more questions about employment posters or workplace compliance in general? Contact us at Axiom to find out how we can help.