Question: With the minimum wage going up, I've gotten notices saying our company must buy new labor law posters or face big fines. Are these notices a scam? What's actually required?
Answer: Businesses are required to display updated California minimum wage posters on the increase to $7.50 an hour effective last January and to $8 an hour effective Jan. 1, 2008. Not having the proper postings can put your firm out of compliance with labor laws and at risk for fines.
The challenge for small business owners is sorting through which legislative changes require new posters. Some unscrupulous firms bombard entrepreneurs with deceptive materials that claim every labor law change requires the purchase of a new poster.
"Typical offers threaten fines up to $17,000 if business owners don't replace posters, even when the previously issued poster is still valid," said Ashley Kaplan, a compliance attorney with human resources firm G.Neil in Sunrise, Fla.
Labor law posters can be requested for free directly from government agencies. If you don't have the time or inclination to keep track of the multiple federal and state agencies that require labor postings, Kaplan recommends that you check with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) before you buy posters.
"Verify -- and get it in writing -- that any posters you're buying meet exact agency specifications for font size, poster size, color and layout," she said. "Confirm that the company selling posters uses labor law experts and attorneys to monitor posting requirements and ensure that any changes are properly communicated in the posters."
Third-party contractors charge an annual fee to keep track of pertinent labor law changes and automatically send your company new posters when you need them. G.Neil offers such a service and lists updated posting requirements on its website: www.gneil.com/info/posterchanges/default.aspx
Seek out information on federal contracts online
Q: I'd like to get my small business in competition for government contract work. How can I do that or at least find information about how it's done?
A: Information on bidding processes for government contracts is readily available online, but the line between good information and bad is not always clear -- particularly to entrepreneurs new to the process. Start with the Small Business Administration, which lists extensive information about government contracting on www.sba.gov/services/contractingopportunities/index.html.
Mark Amtower, founding partner of Amtower & Co., a consultancy specializing in marketing to the U.S. government, says the Defense Department's Procurement Technical Assistance Centers are "good places to start." A listing of the centers can be found at www.dla.mil/db/procurem.htm. "These are designed to help small businesses enter the government market and provide low-cost and no-cost assistance," Amtower said.
The Los Angeles County Office of Small Business (www.laosb.org) operates as part of the county's Internal Services Division and can be reached at (323) 881-3964.
Organizational Communications Inc. puts out a newsletter on the government contracting process at www.orgcom.com, Amtower said.
If you want to receive information about federal contracts, try FedBizOpps, www.fbo.gov, Amtower said. For state and local listings, he recommends Onvia, www.onvia.com, which compiles bid opportunities from around the country and provides them to companies for a fee.
Amtower's site, www.governmentexpress.com, offers a free e-newsletter, articles and interviews with government contracting experts and links to additional resources that offer information on federal, state and local government procurement.
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