North Dakota employers need to be aware that many changes in labor laws occurred during 2007, and will occur in 2008. As a result, these employers will need to update their labor law posters. The coming New Year is a good time to ensure posters are current.
One of the major changes during 2007 related to minimum wage. The federal minimum wage, as a result of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007, went from $5.15 to $5.58 per hour. Nearly a dozen states increased their minimum wage on the same day.
Also, during the 2007, several other states, including Utah, Washington, Oregon, and West Virginia increased their state minimum wage.
The complete list of 2008 North Dakota labor law posters that every employer should have includes:
- Unemployment Insurance
- Minimum Wage
- Workers’ Compensation
In addition, federal law requires all employers in North Dakota to display up-to-date copies of the following posters:
- USERRA – Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act
- IRS Withholding Notice
- Payday Notice
- Anti-Discrimination Notice
- Equal Employment Opportunity is the Law
- Federal Minimum Wage
- Employee Polygraph Protection Act
- Family and Medical Leave Act
- OSHA-Job Safety & Health Protection
Both state and federal law require that every employer prominently display the posters in an area where they can been seen by every employee. Popular locations are a bulletin board, near the time clock or in the break room.
The most common reason for employers to update posters includes statute changes, especially to minimum wage laws.
In just the past few months, employers in New Hampshire, Nevada and Maine have updated their labor law posters as the state minimum wages changed. The most recent increase was on October 1, 2007 when the New Hampshire minimum wage increased to $6.50 per hour.
A number of changes in 2008 will require employers to update their posters during the year. The federal minimum wage will jump from $5.85 to $6.55 on July 24, 2008. On the same day, the states that raised their minimum with the last bump in the federal minimum wage will enact increases again.
More than a dozen states will increase their minimum wages on January 1, 2008. These include Delaware, Oregon, Washington, California, Florida, Iowa, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Vermont, Colorado, Arizona, Missouri, Montanan and Ohio. The lowest rates to be increased is in Montana, where the state minimum wage will increase from $6.15 per hour to $6.26. In Missouri and New Mexico, the state rate will go to $6.50.
After the increase, the nation’s highest minimum wage will be in Washington state, where the minimum wage will be $8.07 per hour. Both California and Massachusetts plan increases to $8.00 per hour, while the state rate in Oregon goes to $7.95.
Smoking in the workplace was a change that took place in 2007, in some states. Both Illinois and Ohio enacted new, tough laws banning smoking at work. Ohio employers had to post no-smoking signs at every workplace, at every entrance. In Illinois, the ban on smoking extends to nearly every place of employment, including casinos, bars and restaurants.
In Alaska a smoking related change was made to the Child Labor Laws regarding selling cigarettes. The law currently bans anyone under the age of 19 from buying cigarettes, but until October, teens could work at establishments such as gas stations and convenient stores which sold cigarettes. Concern arose that these teens when working alone, could sell cigarettes to underage pals. Partly due to this concern, the law was amended to also prohibit anyone under the age of 19 from selling cigarettes.
If companies and businesses haven’t already made the relevant changes to their 2008 labor law posters, they should do so as soon as possible. If the information isn’t updated, the employers could be considered in violation of the law and subject to a fine.
Accessories can enhance the usefulness of forklifts, but they can also pose risks if not installed properly. A recent state publication addresses the incorrect operation of forklifts. There are more than 1.5 million forklifts in use in nearly ever industry in the nation. Forklift accidents are one of the most common types of industrial accident in the US, resulting in 10,000 deaths each year.
That’ s the conclusion of a recent North Dakota worker safety report on these handy little trucks, also called Powered Industrial trucks, PITs, and fork trucks. Some of the attachments commonly used in industry include hoppers, drum grippers, boom extensions, rug rams and drum carriers. It is very common to see such attachments, especially in the manufacturing industry.
Employers and worker must be aware of how any accessories modify the forklift’s load capacity and performance. Accessories may also change the fork truck’s maintenance routine and operating procedures. When an accessory is installed, the manufacturer must approve the changes. Once that is accomplished, the instruction labels and decals will be modified to reflect the truck’s new capacity. The weight an accessory is always counted as part of the forklift’s load, therefore, it reduces the total capacity.
According to North Dakota OSHA standards, the forklift operator’s skills must be evaluated regularly. Every forklift operator, no matter how experienced, should be retrained from time to time. Any time an operator is involved in an accident or has a close call, they should receive additional training automatically.
Although forklifts are easy to operate, they represent a significant danger in the workplace. According to a safety consultant, there are a number of ways to minimize forklift injuries and fatalities. Unbalanced loads cause forklifts to tip over, resulting in many accidents and injuries.
To reduce accidents, the OSHA standards require special training for operators. A good forklift training program will take four factors into consideration. These include the operator’s skills, the operator’s level of prior knowledge, and the type of forklift. The training program should also address any specific hazards found in that particular workplace.
The U.S. Department of Labor recently released the final North Dakota USERRA regulations. USERRA is the acronym of Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. The 1994 law protects the rights of veterans and members of the National Guard and Reserve. In particular, the USERRA allows soldiers to return to their civilian jobs after up to 5 years of leave for military duty.
Under the USERRA, soldiers are entitled to the same job, salary and benefits as if they had not been absent. Several test cases have established that when promotions are given based on seniority, returning veterans are entitled to the promotion they would have received, had they never enrolled. They are also entitled to annual salary increases or cost-of-living increases that have occurred in their absence.
With the introduction of the final USERRA regulations, this is an excellent time for every employer to update his or her North Dakota USERRA poster. According to the Department of Labor, every company is requited to display the USERRA poster, even if the regulations don’t apply to any of their employees.
Recently, employees of the federal government were included in the list of those entitled to receive assistance from the Department of Labor, when they present claims related to USERRA. There is a division within the Department of Labor, known as the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service that assists veterans with claims related to the USERRA regulations.
Returning members of the armed forces including Army, Navy or Air Force Reserve members have a 5-year period of protection for their civilian jobs. In general, the regulations state that a soldier may take a total of 5 years away from work for active duty, and still return to their civilian job. For example, a soldier who was on active duty for 3 years could go on active duty another 2 years at a later date, and still have his or her job protected.
Children, outdoor enthusiasts, and workers alike are at risk from the hidden hazards of mines.
North Dakota worker safety is in danger from these active and abandoned sites, where mine shafts, tunnels, and other hazards could lead to serious or fatal accidents.
“Stay Out – Stay Alive” is a campaign geared to warning both workers and the public about the risks. Among the tragic victims of mine accidents are children, who sometimes wander or trespass onto abandoned mining property to play. Sometimes workers who are not directly related to the mining industry but are working on mine sites may accidentally fall into a mine shaft or suffer other kinds of accidents.
Since 1999, more than 200 people have died in accidents at mining sites. In a single year, 2006, 30 people or more aged 17 to 51 died in accidents at underground or surface mine sites.
The “Stay Out – Stay Alive” program is now in its ninth year. Under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), “Stay Out – Stay Alive” has encouraged many businesses, individuals, private groups, and state and federal agencies to become actively involved in the effort to warn about the dangers of mining sites. For example, Department of Labor mining health and safety teams are going into scouting organizations and schools, teaching children to stay away from the risky sites.
The numerous dangers of a mine site, whether abandoned or active, include tunnels that may cave in. Those tunnels also may contain poisonous gases. They may flood. Or they may harbor insects and poisonous snakes.
There are roughly a half-million abandoned mines and 14,000 active ones in the U.S., according to Richard E. Stickler, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health.
“Many of them contain hidden hazards and, for those not trained to work in mines, the outcome can be deadly,” said Assistant Secretary Stickler. “That’s why we urge workers to ‘Stay Out – Stay Alive.’”
A North Dakota unemployment grant should help bring jobs to the state, particularly in areas with higher rates of unemployment. Jobless rates remain high there despite a national unemployment rate of only 4%.
Other states can benefit from the same grant. Called WIRED, it is designed to give a boost to regions where unemployment remains high.
A North Dakota unemployment grant would be great news for the state’s workers. An Indiana grant came during the second round of WIRED grants. Now, bidding has begun for the third round.
Economists label any jobless rate below 5% as a labor shortage. The job outlook for college-educated and skilled workers is even better than the national 4% average, and hovers around 1.9%. Still, certain regions of the U.S. seem “immune” to the general improvement in employment, and have long histories of joblessness. The WIRED grant is designed to target those regions.
WIRED grants may be awarded at up to $5 million each. The competitions for the grants are open to all states and territories. Governors in each have gotten letters informing them that it is time to apply for the new round. A governor is allowed to make two proposals (because the grants target regions), and the competition is stiff, but the rewards are worth it. Each region must show what other private, regional and state funding it is receiving.
“The WIRED Initiative,” said Secretary Chao, “recognizes that local economies often do not neatly conform to geographic boundaries.” She said WIRED brings different organizations together to help prepare workforces by supplying them with “the skills needed to succeed in the 21st century worldwide economy.” Those organizations may be economic development groups, foundations, community colleges, businesses and universities.
WIRED is the acronym for Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development. The Labor Department established the WIRED grants in February 2006. At that time it selected 13 regions.
Those who read this blog on a regular basis are aware of the value of the WIRED grants.