Sue Knittel of Sweet Things in Denver was working in her shop one day when the telephone rang.
After she looked on her caller identification, she answered the phone and began speaking to a woman who said she represented a company called Labor Law Compliance out of Florida.
Itâ€™s a company that sells labor law and other required business-specific posters that are free from the North Carolina Department of Labor.
â€œShe sounded very authoritative and asked me several questions including how many employees I had and if I sold food,â€ said Knittel.
According to Knittel, the woman demanded a payment of $34.99 via a credit card, that Knittel was in non-compliance because there wasnâ€™t a choking poster in her bakery and there wasnâ€™t a CPR kit.
Knittel said at that point, she became suspicious.
â€œI asked the woman if this is a North Carolina issue, why is she calling me from Florida,â€ said Knittel. â€œSomething told me this wasnâ€™t kosher.â€
Knittel is one of several business owners in the Denver area receiving threatening phone calls, letters and off-the-street visits from people who are threatening business owners with large fines for non-compliance for having posters required by the state.
The posters, however, are free for the asking from the North Carolina Department of Labor in Raleigh.
Knittel said she had a hunch that was the case.
â€œThe state department of labor told me the posters were free after I called them,â€ said Knittel, adding she got a big laugh out of the â€œCPR kit.â€
â€œThereâ€™s no such thing according to the state,â€ said Knittel. â€œIn CPR, you use your hands.â€
The second call Knittel placed was to the stateâ€™s Attorney Generalâ€™s office.
There, Knittel was told that a lot of companies are selling posters. Usually, the salesmen come door-to-door.
Such was the case with Harry and Barbara Heesch of Fine Framing at N.C. 16/73,
Heesch was in the back of the business when a man came inside.
â€œI heard him say that he didnâ€™t see that we had a labor poster on our wall,â€ said Heesch, adding the man was holding a high-gloss poster and speaking in an intimidating voice.
When Heesch found out the man didnâ€™t represent a government agency but a private agency that were selling posters, Heesch said he became angry.
â€œI got that way because I donâ€™t have any employees that are subject to the labor law,â€ said Heesch.
According to North Carolina Department of Labor commissioner Cherie Berry, the solicitations â€“ especially by mail â€“ are legal.
â€œThe letters are covered by a loophole thatâ€™s in the fine print,â€ said Berry in a written statement.
The state gets about 75,000 requests per year for the posters; poster companies, meantime, are trying to sell posters for as much as $100 or more.
â€œItâ€™s unfortunate when I hear business owners tell me they were duped into spending that kind of money for a poster for fear of a large fine,â€ said Berry, adding the letters threaten fines of several thousand dollars.
Berryâ€™s advice; when businesses get letters like this, throw them in the trash.
Knittel adds that business owners should hang up the phone when a poster telemarketer calls like Labor Law Compliance.
â€œI almost gave them a credit card number,â€ said Knittel. â€œThey scared me to death.â€
Amanda Temple with Labor Law Complianceâ€™s media relations department in Florida said the company denied trying to sell anything the state of North Carolina could offer businesses for free.
However, when asked why she was calling North Carolina businesses, she refused to answer any more questions.
â€œWe handle the federal posters with the federal regulations,â€ she said. â€œThose include the choking posters.â€
She referred further questions to her supervisor, a person she only identified as â€œSean.â€
Calls from the state attorney generalâ€™s office were not returned seeking comment.
by Jon Mayhew