No, I’m not talking about that sweet, sweet Rush 2112 Day-Glo poster you bought in that one store at the mall in 1979. No, the posters I’m talking about are a lot less exciting, but still very important.
Employers, as defined by Title VII, are required to put up posters notifying employees of their rights under that act. Any employer with 15 or more employees falls under this definition. These posters must be placed “in conspicuous places upon [the employer’s] premises” where notices “are customarily posted”. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-10(a)
This poster must outline the employees’ rights under Title VII and the remedies that employees have for violations of that statute. Fortunately, just such a poster can be found on the EEOC website at http://www1.eeoc.gov/employers/poster.cfm. It is suitable for printing and comes in four languages: English, Spanish, Chinese and Arabic.
So, what’s the penalty for not putting up one of these posters? Well, a “wilful” violation can result in a $100 fine “for each offense”. A pittance, you say? Sure, that’s not a lot of money but there is a potential cost that far exceeds the statutory fine.
A poster that meets the statutory requirements -- and, of course, the one promulgated by the EEOC does this -- puts employees on notice of their rights to file a complaint of discrimination and the relevant time periods in which do this. Should an employee file a complaint after the prescribed time period, he may claim that the statute of limitations should be equitably tolled, not only because he was not aware of either his rights under the federal law or the relevant statute of limitations, but also because the employer violated a rule required by the statute. An employer's violation of the EEOC posting requirement may provide a basis for an extended filing period "where the employee had no other actual or constructive knowledge of [the] complaint procedures," Earnhardt v. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, 691 F.2d 69, 72 (1st Cir.1982).. An employee's ignorance of his statutory rights is caused by the employer’s failure to conspicuously post the informational EEOC notices, there may be a valid claim for equitable tolling"); Cano v. U.S. Postal Serv., 755 F.2d 221, 222-23 & n. 5 (1st Cir.1985).
A conspicuously placed poster can go a long way toward defeating such an argument. Many a case has been dismissed for being outside the statute of limitations using just such an argument.