SF City Attorney David Chiu has brought a lawsuit against a company he says is “impersonating government actors” and forcing small businesses to buy bogus workplace compliance posters and threatening $37,000 fines if they don't.
You may have a job, or once had a job, where fine-print government posters that no one ever reads are required to be posted in places like the break room, or near the time clock, or in some common space. It’s a low-maintenance inconvenience for employers, but it’s the law, and these posters are completely free from the Department of Labor or from OSHA.
Yet a new lawsuit from SF City Attorney David Chiu alleges that a company called Personnel Concepts is “impersonating government actors in order to trick small businesses into buying its products,” namely, knock-off versions of these workplace compliance posters. Moreover, Chiu’s lawsuit says Personnel Concepts is threatening small businesses with $37,000 fines, which they have no authority to levy or enforce.
Today, we announced a lawsuit filed against marketing company, Personnel Concepts, for impersonating the government to trick small businesses into buying its products. We’re seeking restitution for businesses & an immediate stop to this serious offense. ⬇️https://t.co/R4PMcvvbT2— SF City Attorney (@SFCityAttorney) March 9, 2023
“The company sends deceptive solicitations designed to look like government communications to California businesses,” according to a release from Chiu’s office. “The solicitations include an invoice for a ‘All-On-One California & Federal Labor Law Poster’ and imply that purchase of the poster is required to comply with labor laws. It falsely threatens that businesses that do not comply could face over $37,000 in fines.”
The lawsuit seeks “penalties, restitution for impacted businesses, and injunctive relief to ensure additional businesses are not harmed,” but a dollar amount is not detailed.
A simple Google search shows San Francisco is not the only place Personnel Concepts operates like this. The consumer protection nonprofit Truth in Advertising reports that “More than 400 complaints against Personnel Concepts have been filed with the [Better Business Bureau] in the last three years,” and notes “one involving an order for three posters for $60 that ballooned to $600.”
And boy do the Yelp reviews for Personnel Concepts make for interesting reading. There are nearly 700 reviews, pretty much all of them angry and one-star. “This company uses advertisements that look like invoices,” one reviewer complains. “They call and say that the government requires you to take action. They say you must contact the government in order to comply and that a $395.00 fee is required and all [they] give is a book or poster. They send things to your office and charge you without notice and if you don't pay for it they call your office and threaten credit reporting.”
During National Consumer Protection Week, we have also launched a new consumer protection web portal and hotline to receive reports of businesses deceiving consumers and property owners in violation of housing laws.https://t.co/Nsyokf51kC— SF City Attorney (@SFCityAttorney) March 9, 2023
Chiu’s office has also set up a new website to report deceptive business practices. Complaints can be submitted anonymously, and the City Attorney's Office will also take reports by phone at (415) 554-3977.
Related: DoorDash Settles for $5.3 Million Over Stiffing Drivers Out of Health Care and Sick Leave [SFist]
Image: OSHA Training Services via Youtube