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DOL Raises Salary Compensation Threshold-What it Means for Employers?

On April 23, 2024, the U.S Department of Labor (DOL) issued a Final Rule raising the minimum salary thresholds for exempt employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Exempt employees are (quite literally) exempt from the minimum wage, overtime, and time reporting provisions of the FLSA, allowing employers to pay these employees a weekly salary regardless of actual hours worked. The DOL sets the minimum threshold for compensation, and the positions must meet certain duties tests to be considered exempt. The Final Rule affects employees under the White Collar Exemption (executive, administrative, or professional) and Highly Compensated Employees’ Exemption.

Now and until July 1, 2024, employees occupying white collar exempt positions must be compensated at a rate of at least $684 per week ( about $35,568 per year). Similarly, employees in highly compensated positions must be compensated at a rate of at least $107,432 to qualify for the exemption.

The DOL, in its Final Rule, drastically raised these thresholds. But, potentially to soften the blow on the employers, the DOL is implementing the salary threshold increase in a two-part approach:

  • First, effective on July 1, 2024, the salary level threshold for exempt employees will increase to a minimum of $844 per week (about $43,888 per year), and to $132, 964 per year for highly compensated employees.
  • Then, starting on January 1, 2025, the threshold is set to increase to at least $1,128 per week (about $58,656 per year) for exempt employees and $151, 164 per year for highly compensated employees.

The Department of Labor plans on updating salary thresholds every three years beginning July, 1, 2027.

What Should Employers Do Now?

The Final Rule has already not been well received by some, and is expected to be challenged-which could delay implementation. Nevertheless, employers should proceed with caution and, despite the potential delay in the implementation, start preparing and budgeting for the changes.

  • Employers could either prepare to increase employees’ salaries in a two-part approach, as the DOL suggests, first on July 1, 2024, and then again on January 1, 2025.
  • Employers could also increase the salary threshold to January 1, 2025 levels on July 1, 2024.
  • Employers can always convert the employees to the nonexempt status should the new thresholds be too burdensome.

As always, when it comes to exempt employees’ classification and compensation, employers should always seek experienced legal counsel. Our attorneys at Wagner, Falconer & Judd are always available to answer any of your questions.


The FTC Voted to Ban Non-compete Agreements…Now What?

On April 23, 2024, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) convened an open commission meeting. Following deliberation, the five commissioners cast their votes, resulting in a decisive 3-2 outcome in favor of approving the proposed final rule-banning non-compete agreements. This pivotal decision marks a significant shift in regulatory action.

This new rule could impact an estimated 30 million workers (or 1 in 5 Americans) who are subject to a non-compete through their current or former employers. Barring a successful legal challenge, this new rule will go into effect in 120 days (August 2024).

In January 2023, the FTC warned of this eventuality when it issued its proposed rule adopting the stance that non-compete clauses were an unfair method of competition due to a multitude of factors:

  • preventing workers from leaving jobs
  • decreasing competition for workers
  • lowering wages for both workers who are subject to the agreements and who are not

This rule paints with broad strokes, applying the ban not only to workers, but also independent contractors, externs, interns, volunteers, apprentices, or any sole proprietor who provides a service to a client or customer.

This new rule not only prevents employers from entering into new non-compete agreements with workers, but it also requires employees to rescind existing non-compete clauses. The rule also requires that employers notify parties that are currently subject to a non-compete, that the agreement is now void and unenforceable. While it may be of cold comfort to employers who traditionally utilize non-compete agreements, the FTC has not banned non-solicitation or nondisclosure agreements. Existing non-competes with senior level executives remain in effect, but new agreements, even with executives, are banned.

We expect pushack from employers and business groups who will likely challenge this rule in court. Wagner, Falconer & Judd will be watching these developments closely and will share as we know more.


Staying on top of legislative updates is time consuming. Consulting with an Employment Law Attorney to proactively monitor and update company policies is a simple way to ensure compliance with your local and federal laws. Learn more about the Business Support Services provided by Wagner, Falconer & Judd here. 


The NLRB has Teeth!

That’s right. You heard us. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is not the toothless, independent federal agency some would have you believe.

In March of this year, Region 25 of the NLRB secured an agreement settling a case against a Midwest employer, Hilst Enterprises, Inc. d/b/a La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries (Hilst), for $297,000 in backpay, front, pay, interest, excess tax, mileage, and medical expenses for the two discharged employees; removal of the unlawful discharges from the employee’s files; and a letter of apology to the discharged employees with mail and email notices to its current employees.

So, what exactly happened with Hilst? Essentially, it boils down to two key issues.

First, Hilst maintained three unlawful work rules:

  • Forbidding employees from discussing wages
  • Imposing restrictions on employees’ use of its name and logo without explicit permission.
  • Prohibiting employees’ personal use of the company email system and equipment

Additionally, two employees were fired the day after they engaged in protected concerted activity by expressing concerns about the behavior of Hilst’s President and its potential effect on Hilst’s employees and business.

As you probably know, Section 7 of the NLRA guarantees certain rights for workers. These include “the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representative of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection,” as well as the right to “refrain from any or all such activities.” Section 8(a)(1) of the NLRA makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer to “interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in Section 7.”

In the present case, the Court concluded that “it is axiomatic that employees have a Section 7 right to discuss their wages” and observed that the three rules stated above could reasonably be construed by an employee to restrict or prohibit Section 7 activities. The Court also found “that the employee complaints about changes made by management to their working conditions constituted protected concerted activity” and that Hilst’s discharge of the two employees was intended to punish their protected conduct.

The crucial insights from this case abound. Employers need to regularly reassess their policies to ensure they are not chilling the rights of their workers under the NLRA. Employers must be aware that, in the words of NLRB Regional Director Patricia K. Nachand, “Workers have a right to take collective action free from retaliation.”

The NLRB laws serve as a crucial safeguard for employee’s rights to organize and collectively bargain. Employers who fail to uphold these rights not only risk legal penalties, but also undermine trust , morale, and productivity within their organizations. It’s essential for employers to prioritize compliance with these laws, not only to avoid financial and legal repercussions but also foster a fair and respectful workplace environment where both employees and employers can thrive together. Upholding these rights is not just a legal obligation but a cornerstone of an equitable workplace.

Being mindful of the language in your employee handbooks, contracts and agreements is solid first step in proactively protecting your business from legal risk. Consulting with an Employment Law Attorney while creating and updating your documents is a simple way to ensure compliance with your local and federal laws. Learn more about the Business Support Services provided by Wagner, Falconer & Judd here. 


Simplifying the Complex: Workplace Investigations

Establishing clear and comprehensive best practices for workplace misconduct is essential for fostering a healthy and productive work environment. These guidelines not only define acceptable behavior but also empower leaders to address issues promptly and effectively.

By proactively outlining expectations and consequences, organizations provide a framework that encourages accountability and professionalism. In the unfortunate event of misconduct allegations, having a well-defined set of procedures facilitates a fair and thorough workplace investigation. This not only mitigates legal and reputational risks but also ensures that the investigation is conducted transparently and impartially.

Additionally, such best practices serve as a preventive measure by promoting a culture of respect and integrity, ultimately contributing to employee satisfaction and retention. Regular training and communication about these guidelines reinforce the commitment to maintaining a safe and respectful workplace, empowering leaders to handle misconduct issues with confidence.

The employment law group at Wagner, Falconer, & Judd recommend the following tips when conducting your workplace investigations, whether you are conducting them yourself, or decide to outsource the investigation:


  • Explain confidentiality issues (and that confidentiality cannot be guaranteed).
  • Explain retaliation issues (particularly that any retaliatory conduct should be reported immediately).
  • Take time in interviews. If an interview is taking longer than anticipated, notify subsequent interviewees of any expected delay.
  • Be courteous and professional toward witnesses, including the complainant and accused.
  • Ask non-leading questions and provide the witnesses an opportunity to speak. Do not cut off the witnesses.
    • Don’t forget: who, what, when, where, why, how



  • Accuse: accusatory questions that are likely to put the witness on the defensive. For example, questions like “Did you sexually harass Employee X at the Employer’s holiday party on December 23rd?” should be avoided. “Could you describe your interaction with Employee X at the Employer’s holiday party on December 23rd?” is a better approach.
  • Become angry or emotional
  • Use legal jargon. (For example, sexually harassed, discriminated, constructively discharged, and so on.)
  • Use conclusory statements like “when Employee X harassed you, what did they do?”
  • Reveal the source of the questioning unless absolutely necessary. “Ms. X stated that you stole our Employer’s trade secrets and shared them with our competition.”
  • Make predictions on the outcome of the investigation to any of the interviewees, such as “this conduct is outrageous, Employee X is going to be fired for sure.”
  • Express agreement or disagreement with a witness’ statement.

To ensure the legality and comprehensiveness of the investigation process, it is highly recommended to consult with an experienced employment attorney. Legal expertise can provide invaluable guidance in navigating complex situations, minimizing potential risks, and ensuring that the company’s actions align with applicable laws and regulations. Investing time and resources in a well-structured investigation process not only safeguards the organization from legal repercussions but also demonstrates a commitment to maintaining a workplace where employees feel safe, valued, and heard.

Ultimately, prioritizing the integrity of workplace investigations is an investment in the long-term success and reputation of the company.



Simplifying the New (Old) Regulations from the Department of Labor

In the construction industry, where flexibility and specialized skills are heavily sought after, the classification of workers as independent contractors has long been a common practice. Independent contractors bring a range of talents and expertise to construction projects, offering unique advantages for both employers and workers.

However, recent developments in labor regulations have brought about significant changes in how independent contractors are classified, particularly in the construction sector. It is crucial for all stakeholders involved to stay informed and adapt to these new requirements to ensure compliance with the law.

The reclassification of independent contractors have significant implications for construction projects. From compliance with wage and hour laws to eligibility for certain benefits, the changes affect how construction businesses operate and engage with their workforce.


The New (Old) Regulations

Beginning March 11, a new Department of Labor rule will change how employers determine if a worker is an independent contractor of employee. The federal rule, first proposed in October 2022 and published in the Federal Register January 10, will reverse a rule made late in former President, Donald Trump’s term.

The 2021 shift by the former President’s administration altered worker classifications to focus on two factors: the nature and degree of control over work, and opportunity for profits or loss. Under the new framework-a return to the standard before the 2021 alteration-six nonexhaustive factors will determine a worker’s employment status.

The Six Major Factors When Determining Employment Status:

  • Worker’s opportunity for profit or loss
  • Investments made by the worker and the employer
  • Degree of permanence of the work relationship
  • Nature and degree of control over performance of the work
  • Extent to which the work performed is an integral part of the employer’s business
  • Use of the worker’s skill and initiative

There are Mixed Reviews

Construction employer groups balked at the change-calling the final rule’s standard “ambiguous and difficult to interpret”. (Associated Builders and Contractors).

Labor groups, on the other hand, applauded the update.

“Simply put, this rule will ensure the basic rights of all workers, consistent with the Fair Labor Standards Act.” (United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters.)

Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su said the final rule would ensure a level playing field for workers, particularly vulnerable workers who are misclassified and lose out on minimum wage, overtime pay, and other protections under the FLSA. Worker misclassification is prevalent in the construction industry: an estimated 1.1 million to 2.1 million workers are misclassified or paid off the books. (Century Foundation)


Final Thoughts

Employers, and especially employers who utilize the work of specialty and independent contractors, should conduct thorough audits of the employees and their current classification. Failing to comply with federal and state labor laws often leads to costly consequences such as legal penalties, back pay claims, and damages. Additionally, proper employee classification contributes to a fair and equitable workplace, building trust between employers and their workforce.

Employers would benefit from consulting with a lawyer will versed in employment law to assist in their audit of worker classifications. The attorneys at Wagner, Falconer & Judd stay up-to-date on the various laws that impact the classification of employees by state. Learn more about our services and get started today-that way you’ll be ready for the next employment law updates!



Trademark FAQ

Protecting your brand is crucial for long-term success. One powerful tool in your arsenal is a trademark. Let’s delve into the key aspects of trademarks that will help you navigate the process.

 1. What is a Trademark?

At its core, a trademark is a source identifier. Logos, slogans, business names, sounds, or designs can serve as trademarks. When attached to a product or service, these identifiers enable consumers to associate them with the company that produces them.

2. When Should I think of Getting a Trademark?

The attorneys at Wagner, Falconer & Judd suggest trademarking early in your business journey, especially when deciding on a business name. Early consideration not only enhances your chances of protecting your brand but also minimizes the risk of infringing on someone else’s trademark rights.

3. How Long Does it Take to Get a Trademark?

The timeline for obtaining a trademark varies, influenced by the workload at the United States Trademark and Patent Office (USPTO). Currently, the USPTO estimates a timeline of 14-15 months from the application date to registration.

4. When Can I use the ® or TM symbols?

Us the TM symbol freely with any source identifier at any tie, and it may even assist your trademark application. The ® symbol is reserved for federally registered trademarks with the USPTO.

5. What are the Benefits of Registering a Trademark with the USPTO?

A registered trademark facilitates easier enforcement of your rights, protecting against scammers using similar domain names and offering advantages when working with online retailers like Amazon.

6. State Trademark vs. Federal Trademark

While a state trademark offers protection within a specific state, a federal trademark provides national coverage and generally stronger protections under federal law.

7. Where Do I Start?

Begin with a clearance search, exploring relevant federal and state databases to determine the availability of your desired trademark. Professional assistance, such as consulting with Wagner, Falconer & Judd, can streamline this process.

8. Do I have to Register a Trademark to Use it in Commerce?

No, registration is not mandatory before using a trademark in commerce. However, it’s advisable to register to strengthen your brand’s protection against infringement.

9. Do I Have to Offer the Product/Service Before Applying for the Trademark?

No-you can file on an Intent-to-Use basis. This allows you to reserve a trademark for six months after receiving a Notice of Allowance, with the option for up to five additional 6-month extensions.

10. Once Registered, What Does it Protect and for How Long?

A registered trademark protects the products in the listed classes of goods and services. After the initial registration, renewals are required every 10 years, with an additional filing after the first 5 years.

By taking proactive steps you can navigate the trademark landscape with confidence-and the attorneys at Wagner, Falconer & Judd are always standing by to support you on your journey. Reach out to one of our Intellectual Property attorneys today to learn more. 

Key Considerations for Employers in a Liquidity Crisis

With the recent closure of Silicon Valley Bank, employers may feel the pressure of liquidity issues, which in turn could impact their ability to pay employees on time or operate their compensation/benefits programs.

Three key considerations to focus on when evaluating your company’s internal finances are payroll, furlough, and benefits. These will effect your employees’ day-to-day lives, and eat up most of your HR staff’s time.


Payroll/Employee Communications:

Communicate immediately with employees regarding potential delays in payroll timing and provide prompt updates on changes. If you’re switching payroll to another financial institution, ensure compliance with existing wage rules that are designed to prevent changes to employee’s elected methods of payment without their consent. To the extent the employer cannot timely make payroll, consider furloughing or terminating employees.

Benefit Plans:

Review health and welfare benefit plans, contracts and arrangements to determine whether missed or late payments by the employer to third-party providers may cause a lapse in benefits/insurance coverage for employees (or otherwise impact coverage).

Fair Labor Standards Act:

Many employers impacted by the SVB closure are faced with difficulties in making payroll. Most employers are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), which governs federal wage and hour standards. Covered employers have several obligations under the FLSA, including ensuring nonexempt employees are paid (a) minimum wage for all hours worked and (b) overtime for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours in any workweek. There is no explicit deadline in the FLSA itself with respect to the payment of wages. Nevertheless, the U.S. Department of Labor’s (the “DOL”) position is that FLSA-mandated sums earned for a workweek generally must be paid on the regular payday for the pay period in which the workweek ends. Currently there is no available waiver, or exemption, for noncompliance resulting from bank closures.

An employer that repeatedly or willfully violates the minimum wage or overtime pay requirements of FLSA is subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,100 for each violation. For any violation (including isolated or inadvertent violations), the employer is liable to the employee for the amount of unpaid wages and overtime pay, if any, plus an equal additional amount paid as liquidated damages. There is no requirement that the affected employee show harm beyond the late payment.

In addition to potential penalties for compliance failures under FLSA, employers may also face penalties in connection with failure to timely remit the employer portion of taxes, which includes federal income tax, Social Security and Medicare taxes and Federal Unemployment Tax. There are penalties for untimely, inaccurate, or improperly paid employment taxes, imposed based on the number of days the taxes are overdue.

State Wage Laws:

In addition to complying with wage payment obligations under FLSA, employers must also comply with applicable state wage laws or risk additional fines and penalties. Unlike FLSA, many states impose specific intervals for paying employees (e.g., weekly, bi-weekly, etc.), which may vary depending on an employee’s role or function or the industry in which they work. Penalties for failing to comply with state wage laws vary by state and can include liquidated damages and attorney’s fees.

Furloughing Employees:

In connection with similar liquidity crises, employers have considered employee furloughs as an alternative to layoffs until they can resolve their liquidity issues. Furloughs generally refer to a mandatory, but temporary, cessation from work without pay, with the expectation that the impacted workforce would return to work with the employer in the future.

Health Benefits and COBRA:

Employers that sponsor group health plans should consider whether a furlough would allow employees to continue to participate in employer-provided health benefit plans as “active” participants without requiring participants to elect benefits under COBRA. The determination will depend on the terms of the applicable plan and the underlying insurance policies maintained by their plan carrier.

Qualified Defined Contribution Retirement Plans:

A furloughed employee will generally be considered an active participant in the retirement plan and will not be considered to have experienced a “severance of employment.” Therefore, the employee would not qualify to take a termination distribution from the retirement plan. Further, furloughed employees would not qualify to take a termination distribution from the retirement plan termination assessment. Furloughed employees who are considered active participants may, subject to applicable plan terms, receive plan loans (or have existing loans remain outstanding) or in-service distributions.

Other Benefits:

Employers should also carefully review and assess the impact of furloughs on company participation in, and elections made under other benefit plans, including flexible spending accounts. A furlough may be considered a qualifying event triggering an employee’s ability to make mid-year election changes under a flexible spending account.

Labor Law and Contract Considerations:

When determining which employees to furlough, it is important for employers to use objectively defined and non-discriminatory categories of employees, to mitigate arguments of disparate impact and retaliation.

Further, employers with 100 or more employees need to be aware that under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988 (“WARN Act”), employers are required to provide 60 days advance written notice to terminated employees in the event of a “plant closing” or “mass layoff.”

Under the federal WARN act, notice obligations are not triggered if employees will be furloughed for fewer than six months. However, a furlough that exceeds six months or a reduction of hours by 50% for six months or more will constitute an “employment loss” and trigger WARN’s notice obligations.

Several states that have adopted “mini-WARN” laws have similar exceptions for unforeseeable business circumstances to the WARN Act, such as New York. Employers should review the applicable local, state, and federal notice requirements before furloughing any employees.

The expense of missing payroll, or letting your employee’s benefits lapse could be detrimental to your business, especially during times of economic distress. The attorneys at Wagner, Falconer and Judd have decades worth of experience navigating the ever-changing legal obligations employers face, and are only a phone call away to help you ensure your employees, and your bottom line, are protected. Visit our Support Services page to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.