Posters in the Break Room: Are They Really Necessary?

If you’ve spent any time in any office breakroom, you’ve noticed that beyond the passive-aggressive posters reminding folks to not leave food festering in the fridge, there are a whole bunch of posters on the walls about minimum wage and harassment. Those posters and others need to be there – by law.

Let’s go over which posters you MUST post, why the break room feels like the logical spot, with some alternative spots to consider, and what other requirements you need to abide by when it comes to posting posters.

What do you have to post?
Sadly, there isn’t a single resource that can tell you exactly what you need to post – in fact, there are businesses specifically geared towards determining which posters you need. However, the best place to start – and arguably, the best resource – is to go ahead and visit the US Department of Labor’s Poster Advisor site. However, it should be noted that this only covers you for federal laws. You’ll need to also consult your state to ensure you don’t have any additional posting requirements.

Where do you have to post it?
When we talk about where to post posters, more often than not, the idea of the employee break room is mentioned. This stems from the fact that the federal guidelines state that they must be posted in a place where all employees will see them.

Alternatives to a breakroom include a kitchen, a common area, or even by a time clock.

Options that don’t work include gender-specific bathrooms, the HR persons office/desk, the boss’s office, a hallway (even if it is well-traveled) or any other place where it might be skipped over by even one or two employees. Other requirements for peak posting locations include that it is accessible to all employees, meaning that it isn’t behind a locked door that only some folks can access, that they are in a place where employees don’t have to travel to see them and that it is posted in each location in which you have employees. If you are spread out over numerous floors or even buildings, you’ll need to shell out for additional posters.

What about my remote employees?
If you have employees that don’t come into the office, that surely presents a problem to the already complicated poster issue. The Department of Labor has a good workaround and suggests that for these always absent employees,  you can either email them their very own poster OR you can post it on your employee intranet in a space where all employees can easily and readily access it without requiring additional passwords or other blocks to access it.

Do I have to post in different languages?
It is highly recommended that employers with Spanish speaking employees post posters in both English and Spanish as part of the employer’s commitment to making sure that employees understand their rights under state and federal legal frameworks. In several states – including Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, New Mexico, North Carolina, New York and Texas – if 5 percent or more of your workforce lists English as a second language, you are required by law to make the information available in Spanish.

Do I really have to also post for applicants?
Yes, you really do, and yes, we agree that this adds an extra layer of difficulty! In general, all employers seeking new job applicants must post the “EEO is the Law” (EEOC), Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA). Select states also have their own rules for applicants, so be sure to check with there to make sure you are in compliance.

I hate wasting paper – can’t I just email them?
Sadly, the DOL has no time for your environment-saving antics! While they will accept that you also electronically post the labor law posters (such as for remote employees), it doesn’t take the place of an actual physical poster and the two are in no way interchangeable.

We’ve got a small space – can I reformat them?
The DOL is oddly specific on this one and whoever designed these posters seems to have a real hold on them because they strictly prohibit any reformatting of the posters. They claim that even shrinking them down can cause issues because it may mean that the font is no longer easy to read and that can knock you right out of compliance. With that being said, it’s easier to just go ahead and use the standard ones.

When do I replace them?
State and federal labor law posters must be changed whenever the language in said laws changes. Following one of these mandatory changes or updates, you are required to post the updated version, or else find yourself (you guessed it!) out of compliance and thus subject to fines. Plan to check your posters periodically to make sure that you have the most up to date version posted.

How much is this going to cost me?
The posters themselves are free from the Department of Labor or state agencies (because, again, you must show both as needed), but they sure do make you jump through a lot of hoops to get there and you’re still usually on the hook to get them printed out yourself. There are a number of companies that will compile and print out the various posters that you need, but that, of course, comes at a price – however, for the convenience factor, it might be worth looking into.

Now, if you choose not to post them, let’s talk about how much you’ll pay. Fines can stack up very easily, but generally tap out at $17,000, depending on the type and number of infractions. In general, however, you can expect to pay between $100 and $10,000 per slip up, which means that dishing out a few bucks up front and playing by the rules is a good business decision.

Still have questions about the poster process, what it entails and compliance? A Professional Employer Organization (PEO) can take all the guesswork out of HR compliance as their human resource experts understand all the laws and know what posters each business needs.