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September 10, 2012

Workplace Labor Poster Company Agrees to Changes After State Alleges Deceptive Marketing, Pays $30,000 to State Fund

(DES MOINES, Iowa) A Michigan company selling labor law posters to Iowa employers has agreed to pay $30,000 and refrain from misleading Iowa workplaces about its products and state requirements, as well as its non-governmental status, in an agreement with Attorney General Tom Miller.

Mandatory Poster Agency Inc. (“MPA”), of Lansing, Michigan, and its owners, Thomas Fata, Steven Fata, and Joseph Fata, through an agreement called an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, have agreed to change their sales and marketing practices.

MPA has done business in Iowa under the names Iowa Labor Law Poster Service, Iowa Food Service Compliance Center, and Iowa Healthcare Compliance Center. Under these names the company has sent out notices and made telemarketing calls to Iowa businesses, churches, charities, and schools.

Miller alleged that MPA may have misled Iowans into believing that the company was a government agency or was acting on behalf of government, or that Iowans were required to purchase the company’s posters in order to comply with state and federal workplace posting requirements.

“Deceptive efforts to get Iowa businesses and other employers to buy these posters are especially troubling, since posters that meet all of the legal requirements are available for free from Iowa Workforce Development,” Miller said. “Employers didn’t have to pay a penny more for these than they’d pay for a state road map at a rest area. The state provides them for free.”

According to an October 11, 2011 court filing, called an application to enforce, Miller alleged that MPA’s so-called “advisories” featured official-sounding names, terms, and symbols that could make a workplace administrator believe mistakenly that MPA was itself an agency of government, or was acting on behalf of authorities. The company maintains a mailing address on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. which, Miller alleged, was for the sole purpose of misleading workplaces about MPA’s quasi-governmental status.

MPA had earlier been the focus of law enforcement proceedings in 23 states and by the federal government.  Noting that earlier settlements had required MPA to make certain disclosures in its advertisements, Miller expressed concern that the company’s marketing had still created false impressions through conflicting messages.

Under the current Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, MPA cannot mislead regarding its location or its status as a governmental entity, or its association with a governmental entity, and cannot use a Washington, D.C. mailing address.  MPA cannot use a name that includes “agency” or “compliance center,” and cannot use government look-alike logos, including a bald eagle logo.  MPA also must not
misrepresent workplace posting laws and requirements, or that its products are somehow mandatory or approved by government agencies.

"We provide free workplace posters, including an all-inclusive poster, and free workplace poster downloads on our website, to benefit both employers and employees,” said IWD Director Teresa Wahlert.  “This makes it easy for employers to access the posters and comply with the law, and it makes it easy for employees to find the information.”

The Consumer Protection Division is mailing a notice to more than 1,500 Iowa workplaces that, in the past few years, have purchased MPA posters.  “We want to make sure businesses that may have been misled into buying posters know that our state makes them available for free,” Miller said.

MPA denies wrongdoing or liability, and its $30,000 payment to the state’s consumer education and litigation fund is not deemed a penalty.

To file a complaint or for more information, call the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at 515-281-5926, or outside Des Moines call, toll-free, 1-888-777-4590. On the Web: www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.gov.

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Labor Posters & Forms Free from Iowa Workforce Development

 

Iowa Workforce Development provides at all its IowaWORKS centers free posters that are designed to meet all state and federal posting requirements, including a “9-in-1" poster.

The Nine-in-One regulatory poster includes all state and federal required labor and employment law notices. The free poster includes all current language, including the recently revised federal Family and Medical Leave Act. The mandatory Iowa Smoke Free Air Act poster is not included in the nine-in-one regulatory poster, as the smoke free poster is designed to be displayed where customers can view the information. Additional information on the smoking lay and sample signs can be obtained at www.iowasmokefreeair.gov

IWD provides .pdf file downloads of Division of Labor posters and forms, free of charge, on its website at www.IowaWorkforce.org. Click on the Labor Services Division tab and then Division of Labor Forms and Posters.

For location information, go to www.IowaWorkforce.org and go to the IowaWORKS drop-down menu.

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