It is especially important that employers update their 2008 Maryland labor law posters. Each year brings a number of changes to the state labor laws, and this year certainly had more than its share.
The updated list of 2008 Maryland labor law posters is:
- OSHA – Health and Safety Protection
- Wage and Hour Act
- Health Insurance
- Equal Pay For Equal Work
- Wage Payment and Collection
- Unemployment Insurance
- Workers’ Compensation Insurance
- Child Labor
- Discrimination Notice
Employers are required to display each of these posters in a prominent location where they can be viewed by both employees and applicants.
In addition, all employers must display updated federal labor law posters including:
- USERRA – Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act
- Equal Employment Opportunity is the Law
- Federal Minimum Wage
- Employee Polygraph Protection Act
- Family and Medical Leave Act
- OSHA-Job Safety & Health Protection
Labor law poster serve as a handy reminder for supervisors and employees alike.
They provide important information on the minimum wage, worker safety, medical leave and child labor laws.
Under both federal and state law, these posters must be updated each time there is a change in legislation.
A change in the federal minimum wage on July 24, 2007 required that the Federal Minimum Wage posters be updated. On that date, the federal minimum wage increased for the first time in more than a decade. The rate went from $5.15 per hour to $5.85 per hour, an increase of 70 cents.
From state to state, there is a wide range of overtime laws and rules governing the minimum wage for employees who receive tips. That’s why each state requires a different set of labor law posters.
The minimum wage for tipped employees varies broadly from one state to the next. So do the overtime laws. These are just some of the items that are covered on each state’s respective labor law posters. Here are a few outstanding examples.
Minimum wage laws for tipped workers like servers often simply follow the federal rate of $2.13 an hour. The idea is that employers need not pay the usual minimum wage because the workers are making up the difference in tips. This is the “tip credit” for employers.
Kentucky, Indiana, Nebraska, and other states follow the federal rate.
Some states offer just a little more than the federal rate:
- North Carolina, $2.43
- Wisconsin, $2.33
- Massachusetts, $2.63
- Michigan, $2.65
The minimum wage for tipped employees in Kansas is only $1.59.
At the opposite extreme, some states offer little or no tip credit. In these states, employees are paid the same minimum wage, or nearly the same minimum wage, as other workers. They include:
- Washington, none ($8.07 per hour wage starting January 1)
- Colorado, wage for tipped workers $8.07 per hour in 2008
- Hawaii, 25-cent tip credit, wage $7 per hour compared to usual $7.25
Some states allow employers very little tip credit. In other words, tipped workers get larger minimum wages – sometimes equal to or very close to the wages of those workers who do not receive tips. For example, in the state of Washington, there is no tip credit, so workers will be getting $8.07 an hour starting January 1. In Colorado, tipped workers will receive $4.00 an hour in 2008. In Hawaii, employers get only a 25-cent an hour tip credit. In other words, tipped workers get $7 an hour rather than the regular $7.25. But in Michigan, tipped employees receive a minimum wage of just $2.65 an hour.
Many employers may have been surprised by the recent Maryland Worker Safety alert issued by OSHA. This alert advises employers about the potential dangers All-Terrain Vehicles can pose when used in the workplace. Maryland OSHA wants employers to ensure that the vehicles are operated safely.
Although many people may think All-Terrain Vehicles, also known as ATVs, are just for recreational use, more businesses are utilizing the vehicles in the workplace. Some industries that use ATVs include construction, agriculture, facilities management, and law enforcement. As the use of ATVs in the workplace increases, so does the number of injuries.
Although most fatalities and injuries that occur while operating an ATV happen to recreational users, more than 100 workers have died while operating ATVs in the workplace during the past decade. Because ATVs can be prone to roll-overs and other accidents, employers need to ensure that employees operate the vehicles correctly.
To that end, the Maryland Department of Labor and Maryland OSHA, which are referred to as MD-OSHA, want employers to have employees who operate ATVs receive training. The recently issued alert supplied employers with guidelines for the operation of ATVs.
The OSHA guidelines cover any vehicle designed for off-road use. These vehicles have low-pressure tires, are steered by using handlebars, and have a seat that the driver straddles. Employers should remember that these vehicles are intended to be occupied only by the driver. No passengers should be allowed on the ATV. If storage racks are on the front or the back of the ATV, they should be used to carry equipment in limited amounts.
The statistics for ATV accidents experienced by recreational users highlight a trend that’s disturbing. A Consumer Product Safety Commission report issued recently stated that in 1982, there were 29 deaths related to ATV accidents. In 2004, the number of ATV-related deaths was 470. In the last decade, 800,000 injuries that were the result of ATV usage were reported.
Many employers believe that under the USERRA, employees have the right to return to the same job, after active military service. They mistakenly believe that the employee is entitled to the same pay and benefits that they had when they left. That’s entirely wrong.
In fact, under the final USERRA regulations recently released by the Dept. of Labor, employees are entitled to the job they would have held if they’d never left. That’s an important distinction. Let’s take Mike, a firefighter, as an example. Mike is a Lieutenant on a large city’s firefighting force. He is scheduled to receive his promotion to Captain in 6 months. Instead, Mike’s Army Reserve unit is sent overseas for a year.
When he returns, Mike is entitled to receive the promotion to Captain. His time in the military counts as time on the job, for purposes of seniority. Mike is also entitled to any increases in salary or benefits that he would have received if he had not been away.
Another common mistake in USERRA is the belief that employers must “hold the employee’s job open” in their absence for military service. This is also not true. While Mike is gone, the city has every right to hire or promote another fire Captain. In fact, the USERRA doesn’t address what happens in Mike’s absence. It only addresses the fact that Mike’s job is protected. Upon his return, he will be reinstated to the job that he would have held, had he not been absent.
In this case, the city will likely have 13 Captains instead of the normal 12 upon Mike’s return. Or, the city may appoint an “Acting Captain” who knows that he or she will be demoted upon Mike’s return. In other industries, employers sometimes hire temporary workers or put permanent employees on short-term assignments. Most employers make the same arrangements to provide staff coverage as they would if an employee were on short term disability or maternity leave.
All of these regulations appear in the final USERRA rules, recently issued by the US Dept. of Labor. The USERRA dates from 1994. It is designed to protect veterans and members of the National Guard and Reserve.
With these new regulations in effect, this is a great time for employers to update their Maryland USERRA posters. By federal law, every employer must display a USERRA poster where it can be seen by employees, even if the law doesn’t apply to any of the employees.
If you’re a professional mechanic, you still face a risk of exposure to asbestos.
That’s because asbestos still lurks in the clutches and brakes of old cars and trucks, posing a hazard to you, the mechanics around you, and other workers in the shop.
Like everyone else, you’ve probably thought that the days of asbestos were over. Asbestos has been banned from buildings for years now, and most of the asbestos in older buildings has been pulled.
An Maryland worker safety alert has put out a warning about the problem. As a reminder, here’s the danger of asbestos. It breaks into small airborne bits that can be inhaled, and can cause death or serious illness. For example, roughly 10,000 people every year die of asbestos-caused illnesses in the U.S. alone. Some of those diseases are lung cancer, asbestosis, gastrointestinal cancer, and mesothelioma.
Unfortunately, there’s no way you can know in advance which cars or trucks you’ll be working on have asbestos in them. So the best solution is to handle every clutch and brake drum as if it contains the material. Keep in mind that a single employee working on a brake shoe the wrong way can release the hazardous material into the environment, putting other workers and the whole shop at risk.
Here are some tips for controlling asbestos. Wet the material to hold down airborne particles. Keep the asbestos in labeled bags, firmly sealed. To limit the spread of the particles, use the negative pressure enclosure/HEPA vacuum system technique or the so-called low pressure/wet cleaning method. The wet method is allowed only for limited exposure. OSHA calls these the two “best practices.”
Consumers also face a risk if they’re trying to repair their cars themselves. OSHA suggests that any “home mechanics” take the work into a professional when brake or clutch jobs are involved.
OSHA also requires every employer in any industry affected by asbestos to take two measures. The first is to develop a written plan for safe handling of materials containing asbestos. The second is to train every worker in those procedures.
A Maryland unemployment grant would a great announcement for unemployed workers in some parts of Maryland. Northern Indiana was just one region to receive a WIRED grant during the second generation of the program. The grant was very helpful in increasing the area’s employment rates and igniting the local economy.
Recently, US Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao opened the competition for the third generation of WIRED grants. The WIRED initiative began in February 2006, when 13 regional grants were awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor. Each region received a grant to boost the economy and decrease unemployment. WIRED is an apt name, because the goal of the program is to connect, or to wire, individuals to the economy. WIRED is the acronym for Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development Initiative.
The statistics show that unemployment is low in the U.S. as a whole, but isolated areas have higher unemployment. Throughout the nation, the average unemployment rate hovers near 4%. It’s even lower for highly-skilled workers, at 1.9%. Yet, certain areas still have sluggish economies and lower employment rates. These are the problems that WIRED grants address.
Secretary Chao sent a letter to each governor, announcing that the WIRED competition is open. Proposals must be approved by the governor and include private, state or regional funding, in order to be considered. Each WIRED grant can be up to $5million in federal funds.
The second round of grants included a number of awards that offer training to workers in areas with higher unemployment. Among the awards, workers were trained in a number of issues. WIRED grants are unique because they represent a collaboration between local and federal governments to solve a pressing problem.
“WIRED brings together universities, businesses, community colleges, foundations and economic development organizations to help equip regional workforces with the skills needed to succeed in the 21st century worldwide economy,” said Secretary of Labor Chao. “The WIRED Initiative recognizes that local economies often do not neatly conform to geographic boundaries.”