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Sometimes all you need to navigate the legal landscape is a little information. Our blogs and articles touch on a wide spectrum of legal matters that can pop up in both business and everyday life, and we hope they’ll shed a little light wherever you happen to need it.

Minnesota Employers Take Heed: Frontline Worker Pay Notice Deadline Quickly Approaching

On April 29, 2022, to thank Minnesotans who kept vital businesses running during the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Tim Walz signed the Frontline Worker Payments law.  The law allows eligible workers in one of 15 different frontline sectors to apply to receive an estimated $750.00 payment.

These sectors include:

  • long-term care and home care;
  • health care;
  • emergency responders;
  • public health, social service, and regulatory service;
  • courts and corrections;
  • childcare;
  • schools, including charter schools, state schools and higher education;
  • food service, including production, processing, preparation, sale, and delivery;
  • retail, including sales, fulfillment, distribution, and delivery;
  • temporary shelters and hotels;
  • building services, including maintenance, janitorial, and security;
  • public transit;
  • ground and air transportation services;
  • manufacturing; and
  • vocational rehabilitation.

Employers in one of the above-delineated frontline sectors must provide all current, potentially eligible workers with notice of the Frontline Worker Pay law by June 23, 2022The Minnesota Department of Labor has created a sample employer notice which can be found here.  The notice must be posted at each worksite where workers work and in a conspicuous place that can be easily accessed by all workers, such as a break room or in a location where other work-related notices are posted.  Notices can also be distributed in paper or electronic copies.

The Department of Labor has also created a helpful FAQ document which can be found here.

What Happens if You are Injured at Work?

Getting injured on the job can be particularly stressful. Worker’s compensation provides medical expenses, lost wages, and rehabilitation costs to employees who are injured or become ill during the course of their job.  Let the experienced attorneys simplify an otherwise complex situation. So you can focus on getting well, and moving forward.

What should you do if you are injured at work?

First- you should report the injury to your employer as soon as your injury occurs. Make sure the supervisor/HR knows as well. It’s helpful to shoot an email to your supervisor, manager, HR department the same day of the injury. The email should document any and all injury/symptoms from the incident. Even if it feels unrelated, such as your neck hurting after slipping and falling on your hip, let them know.

Your health and safety should always be top priority. We encourage all injured persons to be seen by a doctor who can help with treatment and recovery. Remember, the employer and their insurer may be liable for all treatment of a work injury, depending on your individual state’s laws.

You should start documenting work time missed and medical costs incurred, including medical bills, prescription costs, mileage and time off of work. Document any time missed for the injury, appointments, and reduced time if you are put on certain restrictions. Any wage loss incurred should also be documented.

 

If you have been injured on the job and unsure if you have covered all your bases, our team of Personal Injury attorneys are standing by to help simplify the process for you, so you can focus on healing.

Virginia Passes Law that Prohibits the Use of Paid-if-Paid Clauses in Public and Private Construction

The State of Virginia recently passed a law which helps ensure that construction subcontractors get paid for their work. Historically, “paid-if-paid” clauses in construction contracts have been enforceable in Virginia if the contract language is unambiguous.[1] A paid-if-paid clause creates a condition precedent where the prime contractor is only required to pay its subcontractors if the project’s owner first pays the prime contractor. Therefore, if a construction job falls through and/or the owner otherwise stops paying, paid-if-paid clauses free the prime contractor from having to pay its subcontractors. Virginia’s new law shifts the risk of getting paid for completed work from subcontractors back to the prime contractor.

In April 2022, Virginia passed into law SB550, which prohibits the use of paid-if-paid clauses in any public or private construction contract; the law goes into effect on January 1, 2023. SB550 requires a prime contractor to pay its subcontractors, regardless of whether the project owner pays the prime contractor. Under SB550, prime contractors are obligated to pay a subcontractor within sixty days from receiving an invoice from the subcontractor, or seven days after receiving payment from the owner, whichever is earlier.

Virginia’s new law is unique because paid-if-paid clauses are enforceable in most jurisdictions. Virginia will be the seventh state to make paid-if-paid clause unenforceable.[2] Nine other states only prohibit paid-if-paid clauses under certain conditions.[3] In most of these jurisdictions, paid-if-paid clauses are void when they weaken the subcontractor’s ability to file a mechanic’s lien. A mechanic’s lien is a claim against the project owner’s physical property to secure payment for labor or materials supplied for a private construction project. An argument against laws like SB550 is that subcontractors can remedy nonpayment for a job by filing a mechanic’s lien and directly pursue the private project’s owner. Most states also have lien and fund trapping statutes that help subcontractors get paid. However, filing mechanic’s liens is a complex and time-consuming process, and SB550 gives subcontractors additional protection.

It is uncertain whether other states will follow Virginia’s lead and ban paid-if-paid clauses. SB550 is a significant bill because Virginia’s historic view on contract law is that a contract’s terms usually supersede other provisions. Any new paid-if-paid laws throughout the country will likely result on a state-by-state basis, rather than states coming together to pass new legislation. WFJ will continue to stay up to date on paid-if-paid laws and all other mechanic’s lien and payment bond laws in the United States and Canada to ensure our clients are protected and fully informed of their rights.

[1] See Galloway Corp. v. S.B. Ballard Const. Co., 464 S.E.2d 349 (Va. 1995); see also Universal Concrete Products v. Turner Const. Co., 595 F.3d 527 (4th Cir. 2010).

[2] The other six states are California, Delaware (for private contracts), New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin.

[3] The nine states include Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, and Utah.

Investing in Employee Mental Health can Pay Dividends

May was Mental Health Awareness Month, which aims to bring awareness to and reduce the stigma of mental health issues.  Recently, PwC announced that it would be embracing the movement and investing $2.4 billion (yes, that’s billion with a “b”), into programs meant to improve employee mental health and wellness.  These new wellness driven policies provide employees with options to establish work schedules and locations that are most conducive to the employee’s present circumstances.  In addition, the company will shut down for two weeks in both July and December to encourage time away from work, provide expanded parental leave, give mid-fiscal-year salary increases to all employees, and offer professional development opportunities.

Research shows that when employees are struggling, a company’s bottom line can also suffer.  For example, a study published by the American Psychiatric Association Foundation’s Center for Workplace Mental health found that employee depression, which can lead to increased absenteeism and lost productivity, costs the U.S. economy more than $210 billion each year (there’s that “b” for billion again).  Not only is it the right thing to do to take steps to improve employee wellness, but the investments can lead to increased productivity and output, and thus higher profits.

While most companies cannot invest billions of dollars into employee wellness programs like PwC, there are many low-cost measures companies can take to improve mental health and wellness, such as the examples below.

Train Managers to Spot the Signs of a Struggling Employee: Front-line managers should have a basic understanding of the warning signs that an employee may be struggling with their mental health.  For example, perhaps a once-stellar employee is now struggling to complete projects on time or turns in work riddled with errors.  Another employee may have had a great attendance record, but suddenly is absent or tardy from work often.  These issues could stem from depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions, rather than just sudden poor performance.  Managers should also know that certain employees may be at higher risk of suffering from work-related stressors.  Common examples of workplace triggers include employees who work alone, in high-risk positions, or have intense workloads.  If a manager senses an employee is struggling, the manager should understand how to broach the subject with the employee, what to say, and just as importantly, what not to say.

Understand How to Properly Handle Employee Reporting of Mental Health Issues: If an employee discloses that they are struggling with their mental health, employers should understand their potential legal obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act and corresponding state laws.  Employees may be entitled to reasonable accommodations such as additional break time, modifications to work schedules, or unpaid leave.  It may also be appropriate for the employer to offer resources to the employee.  For example, if the company has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), the employer can refer the employee to the EAP, who can then connect the employee with the necessary resources.  Often employees either forget about their EAP options or are hesitant to reach out believing their situation is not serious enough and need some encouragement.

Conduct High-Quality Check-Ins to Build Connections: The COVID-19 pandemic left many people feeling isolated from family, friends, and colleagues, which can have a corresponding negative impact on an individual’s well-being.  Even as more employees have returned to working on-site, there is no doubt that remote/hybrid work arrangements are here to stay.  A tool companies can use to help combat employee isolation is to conduct more frequent, but shorter duration, check-ins.  The practice of conducting once-annual performance reviews for the sole purpose of analyzing wage increases is often inadequate to address employee performance, and certainly does not help with employee engagement.  Rather, employers should take care to really listen to their employees.  Employees who feel their concerns are taken seriously, and that they are given opportunities to assist the company with solving workplace problems, are likely to feel more engaged, valued, and have better job satisfaction.

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to implementing programs and policies that will improve employee wellness, there are many steps companies can take which require minimal capital investments, but that ultimately pay dividends.

Join Our Team!

There are a number of exciting employment opportunities at Wagner, Falconer & Judd right now. If you or someone you know is looking for a job with an established law firm and fun, fast-paced team environment, look no further!

Employment Practice Attorney

WFJ is seeking an employment attorney to serve our growing employment law needs. Ideal applicant would have 2-4 years of employment law experience, a strong focus on customer service, and an interest in the evolving legal service industry delivery models. The successful candidate will have immediate client exposure and hands-on client interaction and must be positive, self-motivated, adaptable, high energy, and enjoy working in a fast-paced team environment. Applicants should have strong interpersonal skills, and an eagerness to help solve HR problems. Great salary with full range of benefits available.

Small Business Attorney

WFJ is seeking an entrepreneurial business law attorney to serve our growing small business clientele’s formation, acquisition, contract and employment needs. An ideal applicant would have 2-4 years of business experience, a strong focus on customer service, and an interest in the evolving legal service industry delivery models. The successful candidate will have immediate client exposure and hands-on client interaction and must be positive, self-motivated, adaptable, high energy and enjoy working in a fast-paced team environment. Great salary with full range of benefits available.

General Practice Attorney

WFJ is seeking a general practice attorney with a passion for service that is licensed to practice law in any of the following states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, or Montana The lawyer would assist the firm in servicing its contract for a group services legal plan with thousands of members across the state. This is a unique opportunity to service a market of individuals, families, and small businesses that are often otherwise priced out of traditional models of access to legal services. The position involves assisting clients with their legal needs through telephonic consultations, document review, legal research, and limited scope representation in many different areas of law. Applicants should have strong interpersonal skills, and an eagerness to help people solve problems. We work in a collegial, team-oriented environment, with offices in Billings, MT, Brookfield, WI, and Minneapolis, MN. We value work-life balance, offer telecommuting options to qualified employees, as well as a competitive salary and benefits package.

Litigation/Injury Attorney

WFJ is seeking an entrepreneurial injury law attorney with at least 5 years of experience to lead its injury practice. The successful candidate will work with the firm’s executive committee to grow the firm’s regional injury practice which services a large clientele of over 40,000 individuals in the upper Midwest. Excellent legal skills and superior customer service are a must. Applicants should have strong interpersonal skills, an eagerness to help people solve problems, a true caring for the client’s well-being, an understanding of social media marketing strategies, and a dedication to fostering long-term relationships with our clients. Our firm is dedicated to providing extraordinary legal representation to our clients and outstanding customer service, all in a fun, positive, team orientated environment for our employees.

Accounting Specialist

WFJ is looking for an accounting specialist who can handle a wide range of administrative support and office related tasks. Individuals must deliver outstanding service to our clients and have strong computer skills, including QuickBooks, Excel and Word. Other tasks will include data entry, invoicing and billing, deposits, and assisting with reporting. Candidates need to be well organized and able to handle confidential information. Person must be positive, self-motivated, energetic, and enjoy working on a fast-paced team . Full-time position with full range of benefits and onsite gym.

Customer Service Specialist

WFJ is seeking an experienced customer service specialist to join our growing team. This position is responsible for assisting both internal and external clients and our team of attorneys in a professional manner. We are looking for someone that thrives on helping others and who can deliver award winning service. The right candidate will possess strong leadership and communication skills, have a passion for helping others, possess a high level of integrity and be detail oriented. If you are a passionate person who thrives in a team environment and truly care about making a difference in the lives of others, this might be the right role for you. This a full-time role with daytime hours from Monday-Friday 8:00-5:00 and offers a wide range of employee benefits.

 

If you think you would be a good fit for one of these positions, please reach out to us at jobs@wfjlawfirm.com.

Project and Customer Red Flags-Commercial Collections

Sometimes it’s easy to look at a project or customer through rose colored glasses. Especially in a time when you are overworked, understaffed, and worried that the well of work might dry up. However, it’s important to keep an eye out for certain red flags that can majorly impact your ability to be paid on time. Or at all.

The attorneys at WFJ have been supporting construction companies for decades, and we’ve compiled a list of a few things that often lead to trouble later down the road.

  • Project Owner not paying general contractor or having financial problems
  • General contractor not paying your customer or having financial problems
  • Any party in contract chain files bankruptcy or is placed in receivership
  • General contractor or customer tells you to file a lien or bond claim
  • General contractor/subcontractor is terminated
  • Customer pays creditor on one project with proceeds from another project
  • Customer having difficulty obtaining credit, shopping for business loans
  • Quasi-public/private project
  • Tenant improvement projects
  • Customer not paying on time or paying in irregular amounts
  • NSF checks (to you or others)
  • Customer sells business or is talking about selling business
  • Loss of line of credit
  • Dismissal of key financial personnel
  • Problems covering payroll
  • Principal or third-party revokes personal guaranty
  • Secured party repossesses customer’s equipment or other collateral
  • Lawsuits or judgements
  • Federal or State Tax liens

 

Sometimes customers and projects don’t show any immediate red flags. If you are having trouble collecting on a project, it might be time to place your claims with Wagner, Falconer & Judd. Contact us to learn more about getting started.

Could Paying Your Rent on Time Improve your Credit Score?

The short answer, sometimes. If you are looking for a way to improve your credit score, but don’t have much of a credit history, you’re rent history could be considered.

All three major credit bureaus accept payment history if they receive it. You aren’t allowed to self-report your on-time rent payments, but there are several rent reporting services that range in price. (Your landlord might even offer to cover this expense, as most of these services offer other resources to support those managing properties.)

Paying your rent on time isn’t going to immediately boost your credit score, especially if you already have a score over 620, but a 2017 TransUnion study reported an average increase of 16 points within 6 months of reporting for consumers with a credit score below 600.

Typically, it takes at least 3-6 months of good credit behavior to see a noticeable change in your credit score. It is difficult to make a change any faster, unless the negative information on your credit report was a minor blip, like being late with bill payments one month.

Here are some time frames for negative information that detracts from your credit score:

  • A delinquent account remains on your credit report for 7 years
  • Car prepossession stays on your report for 7 years
  • Chapter 7 bankruptcy is on your report for 10 years. Chapter 13 remains for 7 years
  • Credit application inquires remain on your report for 2 years
  • Public record items such as property liens are on your report for 7 years.

 

Consumers have numerous options for reviewing, consolidating, and appealing information on their credit reports. It’s hard to know which option is best for your unique situation, so let the experienced attorneys at Wagner, Falconer & Judd simplify that for you. The sooner you take charge of your credit report, the sooner you can improve your score-so reach out to us today!