Under Executive Order (EO) 13496, two new Department of Labor (DOL) regulations for government contractors and subcontractors took effect June 21st - imposing strict requirements 1) to post specific language notifying employees of their rights to join a union and engage in organizing activity, and 2) to include specific language in covered contracts and subcontracts. Failure to comply with EO 13496 is cause for enforcement proceedings, including penalties up to contract cancellation or possible debarment.

The Employee Rights Notice spells out the seven rights of an employee, six of which are associated with joining unions and engaging in organizing activity. The Notice requires contractors and subcontractors who hold government contracts that include the employee notice clause (and are valued in excess of $100,000 for government contractors, $10,000 for subcontractors), to post the employee notice clause at their worksites.

Here is a quick recap of the DOL’s Final Regulations:

  1. Employees have seven rights – six related to joining unions and engaging in union activity. There is only one mention of the employee’s right to NOT join a union.
  2. What employer and unions actions are unlawful under the NLRA and how to report any violation of the NLRA.
  3. Employers MUST use the exact notice as detailed by the DOL. No changes in color, content or size are permitted. To view the notice online, visit http://www.dol.gov/olms/regs/ compliance/EO13496.htm. If you post employee notices online, certain rules apply. The rules for online posting are available at the link above. Commercially purchased versions of the notice are also acceptable.
  4. Employers must post the notice conspicuously and prominently both in and around their facilities – it should be easily seen by employees at each location where other notices to employees are posted, and where employees covered by the NLRA perform activities relating to the performance of the government contract.
  5. En Espanol or other languages? If you have translated or purchased other policies or notices in other languages for the significant portion of your workforce that speaks another language, you need to offer the Employee Rights notice in the applicable language(s). Some versions may be available at the DOL website.
  6. Beyond the Employee Rights Notice, contractors are required to include the employee notice clause in all subcontracts valued over $10,000. The contract must either 1) include the entire language found in Appendix A to the Final Regulation, or 2) incorporate the language with a specific referral to 29 CFR Part 471, Appendix A to Subpart A.
  7. Any penalties for non-compliance are subject to review by the National Labor Relations Board.

If you are a government contractor or subcontractor, now is an opportune time to review your company’s contracts commencing on or after the effective date of the Final Regulations (June 21, 2010) and also (if you have not done so already) to post the required Employee Rights Notice if you have any covered contracts. You are free to post the Notice even if your company’s contracts are not covered, which is helpful for companies that may move in and out of coverage based on current contracts. Also, you should review and revise your covered subcontracts and purchase orders to include reference to the new regulations.