Some Washington business owners got an official-looking (read, scary) letter recently, warning them to post updated workplace-rights and...

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Some Washington business owners got an official-looking (read, scary) letter recently, warning them to post updated workplace-rights and safety rules or face up to $7,000 in fines.

State officials want employers to know the letter didn’t come from them.

The notice was sent by the Washington Labor Law Poster Service in Olympia, a commercial business that sells sets of workplace posters for $59.50, plus $5.75 shipping.

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The state Attorney General’s Office says that, while the solicitation is legal, busy employers may think the letter is an official document and buy something state offices provide for free.

“I’ve heard of a couple of instances in which they’ve actually bought the posters thinking that the government was requiring it,” said Ron Langley, spokesman for the Department of Labor and Industries.

Langley added that the state can impose heavy penalties for failing to post workplace rules, but it rarely needs to. Violators are given a warning and some free posters, which brings them into compliance.

At Washington Labor Law Poster Service, a woman who would not give her name said her company’s 18-by-24-inch color posters are laminated. The state-issued placards are not, although employers could get them laminated at Kinko’s for as little as $4.50 each.

Labor and Industries provides free posters at any of its offices, or employers can download them from www.lni.wa.gov/IPUB/101-054-000.asp. Other posters can be picked up at a local WorkSource office. Check www.wa.gov/esd/work/localconnections.htm for a directory.

Shirleen Holt: 206-464-8316 or sholt@seattletimes.com