Do Labor Law Posters Need to be Multilingual?

In the U.S., the display of state and federal labor law posters in the workplace is required by law for every employer with one or more employees. Labor law posters serve to improve workplace productivity, but employees also have the right to know the laws surrounding their employment.

Employers often ask whether they are legally obligated to provide multilingual posters, and the answer is not completely straightforward. Most federal and state labor law posters are not required to be posted in multilingual versions. However, the requirements of other agencies state that their posters must be comprehensible to all employees in a particular work environment.

Business owners don’t need to stress about where to find the labor law posters. They can download any updated notices for free or order them from business service providers. Some agencies don’t update their laws frequently, but some federal and state requirements change more often. Updated posters will reflect these changes.

Multilingual workforces and the DOL

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) does not include regulations that require multilingual labor law postings in its Fair Labor Standards Act. There are a few exceptions, and these include the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA), and Executive Order 13496.

However, the DOL does encourage that posters are displayed in other languages spoken by the workforce of a business. Another poster that must be provided in any other common language workers are fluent in is the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) poster. This poster deals with employee rights under the H-2A Program.

OSHA Regulations and posters

According to the website of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employers are not required to display labor law posters in another language. However, the Administration does encourage the practice, especially in businesses with a significant number of Spanish-speaking employees.

State agency laws

As far as state laws and agencies go, they also make comparable recommendations and have similar requirements. Arizona, California, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Tennessee are some of the states that include regulatory requirements for multilingual posters. These multilingual recommendations are made by at least 43 states.

In California, the LCA45-Notice to Employees must also be posted in Spanish. Arizona requires that LAZ02-Worker’s Compensation Insurance be posted in both English and Spanish.

The LNY01 – Minimum Wage Information posting in New York must include Spanish (or any other spoken language). Many other agencies provide postings in other languages besides English and Spanish. Some examples are Somali, Hmong, Polish, and Chinese.

Prudent practices by employers

Staying compliant is what most prudent employers do. This entails keeping the necessary labor law posters updated and displaying them in common areas where they can be seen by the whole workforce.

These areas are usually where all staff members visit daily, like common rooms, cafeterias, and kitchen areas. If a business is spread out on multiple floors or over various buildings, the posters must be placed in more than one common area, unless all staff use one common area only.

Some regulations state that the posters are protected from loss, alterations, or defacement. Posters protected by law have an official government notice at the bottom that states they are protected by the law. All posters, regardless, should be protected from theft or defacement. The best way to protect them is with plastic laminate or glass.

Employers should avoid translating posters on their own because this leaves a lot of room for errors and the likely display of non-compliant labor law posters. Only print the posters in languages provided by the agencies that have issued the posters.

Failure to display labor law posters can lead to heavy fines.

Final word

Effectively communicating federal and state labor law information to workers is the general intent of labor law posters. This keeps employees well informed and aware of their rights. Labor law posters help establish a fair, safe, and legal environment for the workforce of a business and they protect business owners against potential lawsuits and fines.

Even if an agency doesn’t mandate multilingual posters, employers should display them in both English and Spanish. This is especially necessary if the posters are available in both languages or their workforce consists of native speakers of both languages.