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Seminar helps small business with labor laws

Labor laws can be often be quite the puzzle, but on Tuesday, several labor organizations worked to help Lawrence County businesses piece it together.

Violations of some labor laws can mean harsh fines and headaches for business owners. The U.S. Department of Labor has worked alongside the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other government organizations to create seminars intended to help employers avoid some of these violation pitfalls.

This is the third in which they have been offered, but Tuesday was the first time Ironton had been chosen as a seminar location. Fifteen other seminars will be offered throughout Ohio this year.

Cynthia Stankiewicz, outreach manager with the EEOC, said that this sort of education is the best step businesses can take to avoid fines.

"We find it's very crucial for employers to be aware of the federal labor laws so they can comply, and they can prevent violations," Stankiewicz said.

She said that in the three years that they've been conducted, the seminars have produced some impressive results.

"I know it's been effective, because we have encountered some employers who have come to us afterward and said 'Gee, I wasn't aware of that, I'm going to make changes,'" Stankiewicz said.

"We've noticed people documenting that they've made changes as a result of these changes."

Douglas Freeman, owner of Quality Care Nursing, was one of those employers for whom the seminar might have an immediate effect.

"I usually always attend anything that pertains to wage and hour, because that affects every industry, every type of business," Freeman said.

"So far I've learned a lot, I consider myself very knowledgeable about wage and hour information, but I have learned a lot today."

Freeman said that he had picked up some tidbits that he planned to use immediately at his company.

About two dozen employers attended Tuesday's seminar, which Stankiewicz hopes to repeat next year.

Stankiewicz said she hopes that if the seminar visits Ironton again, they can help a larger audience make the hard work of labor laws just a bit easier.

In the meantime, much of the information covered is also available for employers, or anyone looking to get a leg up on labor laws, on the Web sites of some of the participating groups, such as the EEOC's home at www.eeoc.gov and the Department of Labor's site, http://www.dol.gov/esa/whd.