New regulations recently issued by the Department of Labor (DOL) will soon require that most government contracts contain specific provisions requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to notify employees of their rights to unionize and bargain collectively under federal labor laws. The DOL’s Final Rule (PDF), published May 20, 2010, implements the requirement of Executive Order 13496 (PDF), signed by President Obama on January 30, 2009, that federal contractors post appropriate notices in the workplace. The posting requirement will become a mandatory provision of all qualified government contracts from solicitations issued on or after June 21, 2010.

The DOL’s rule creates specific notice requirements, with employer postings required to meet the following criteria:

  • The posting must be in the format that the employer posts other required notices, meaning that an employer that posts its notices in physical form must post the new DOL required poster in physical form, and an employer that provides required notices in electronic form also must provide the new required notice in electronic form.
  • Employers posting in physical form must place the posting(s) in conspicuous places around all working areas — including working areas of manufacturing plants and office spaces — so that the notices are prominent and readily seen by employees. Physical posters also must be in the language(s) spoken by a "significant portion" of the workforce.
  • Employers that post the notice in electronic format may satisfy the posting requirement by providing a link to the DOL’s Web site containing the full text of the posting. However, the link to the DOL site must read "Important Notice About Employee Rights To Organize And Bargain Collectively With Their Employers." 

The new provision requiring such posting does not need to be included (but may be included at the government’s option) in direct contracts with a value less than $100,000 and does not need to be included in subcontracts with a total value of $10,000 or less. The language also need not be included in direct contracts or subcontracts for work performed exclusively outside the United States.

While this rule does not create any new posting requirements under current federal contracts, employers who do business with the U.S. government should be aware that such changes are on the near horizon and be prepared to make the required postings under all new federal contracts.