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.

Navigating OSHA’s New Rules on Third-Party Representatives in Workplace Inspections

The landscape of workplace safety inspections is evolving, with new regulations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reshaping the dynamics between employers, employees, and third-party representatives. Effective May 31, 2024, a revised rule grants employees the right to choose a representative, whether an internal colleague or an external third-party, to accompany OSHA inspectors during workplace inspections.

This significant shift is designed to bring clarity and inclusivity to the inspection process. No longer bound by formal credentials, such as safety engineering or industrial hygiene qualifications, third-party representatives can now be selected based on their knowledge, skills or experience relevant to the workplaces’ hazards and operations. The purpose is clear: to facilitate effective and thorough inspections that prioritize safety and compliance.

However, with this newfound flexibility comes a need for careful consideration and preparation on the part of employers. Understanding the implications of this rule and how to navigate them is crucial for maintaining compliance and ensuring a smooth inspection process.

Key Points in the Revised Rule:

  • Expanded Representation Options: Employees now have the freedom to choose either an internal colleague or an external third-party as their representative during inspections.
  • Inclusive Representation Criteria: Third-party representatives are not limited to individuals with formal credentials. Instead, their selection is based on their ability to contribute positively to the inspection through their knowledge, skills or experience.
  • Compliance Officer’s Discretion: The Compliance Safety and Health Officer retains ultimate authority to determine whether a third-party representative is reasonably necessary for an effective inspection. This decision hinges on the representative’s potential contribution to the process.

Employer Response and Preparation

In anticipation of these changes, employers must revisit their policies and procedures related to OSHA inspections. This includes:

Analyzing Good Cause: Employers should be prepared to assess whether there is a legitimate argument against the presence of a third-party representative and articulate objections to the compliance officer.

Monitoring Representative Activities: Employers must ensure that third-party representatives adhere to the scope and purpose of their presence, preventing any behaviors that could disrupt or interfere with the inspection process.

Ensuring Transparency: Employers can promote transparency by staying informed about the selection process for third party representatives, potentially through active involvement in safety committees.

Addressing Union Concerns

While unions may view this rule change as an opportunity to increase organizing activities, it’s crucial to emphasize that the presence of third-party representatives is strictly for aiding in inspections. Compliance officers retain the authority to exclude individuals whose conduct disrupts the process.

OSHA’s revised rule on third-party representation in workplace inspections represents a significant step towards inclusivity and effectiveness. By empowering employees to choose representatives based on their expertise, the aim is to enhance safety and compliance standards. However, employers must be proactive in understanding and implementing these changes to ensure a smooth inspection process while maintaining a focus on workplace safety and compliance.

As employers adapt to to these changes, it’s essential to see guidance and expertise to ensure compliance while maintaining a safe working environment. If you find yourself grappling with updated regulations or need assistance in developing effective policies and procedures, we’re here to help.

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.



Traffic Violation Support from Wagner, Falconer & Judd

Navigating the complexities of traffic tickets can be daunting. From understanding the charges against you to knowing your rights and options, it can all seem overwhelming. That’s where we come in! At WFJ, we’re here to help you every step of the way. When you call us, make sure you have the following information to make the process as stress-free as possible:


1. Details about the Violation

First things first, send us a picture of your ticket. This allows us to look up your court case and gather crucial information such as court dates and the charged offense(s) against you. It’s a simple and efficient way to kick-start the process.

2. Understanding Minnesota’s Petty Misdemeanors

Many traffic tickets in Minnesota, like speeding tickets, are charged as petty misdemeanors. While they may not be considered crimes in Minnesota, a conviction for a petty misdemeanor will go on your driving record. This can have a negative impact on your car insurance rates. Don’t let a simple mistake lead to long-term consequences.

3. No detail is too Small

When you call us about your traffic ticket, provide as much detail as possible. Tell us about the weather conditions, the traffic situation, and the reason the officer gave for pulling you over. Share what you told the officer during the stop. The more information we have, the better we can assist you.

4. Time-Sensitive Responses

Remember, you have 30 days to respond to your ticket. You can either:

  • Pay the ticket online, by phone, or by mail.
  • Call the Court Payment Center phone number listed on the back of the ticket to schedule a court date, which is usually an Arraignment.

5. Special Arrangements in Select Counties

For tickets received in Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, or Washington County, you have the option to schedule a Hearing Officer Appointment. This informal meeting with a court administrator—known as a Hearing Officer (not a judge or prosecutor)—allows you to discuss potential eligibility for a reduced ticket fine or a driving probation period. This can help keep the charged offense(s) off your driving record and expedite the resolution process.

6. No Need for Driver’s License Picture

While we don’t require a picture of your driver’s license, it’s essential for us to know if you have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). Special traffic laws apply to individuals with a CDL, and we want to ensure we provide you with the most accurate and relevant advice.

7. Limitations of the LegalShield Traffic Benefit

Please note that the LegalShield traffic benefit generally does not cover criminal offenses, such as DWIs. Additionally, it does not cover matters involving a Commercial Driver’s License unless you have the CDL Supplement Plan.

Don’t let a traffic violation derail your life. Reach out to WFJ for expert guidance and support. Our team is dedicated to helping you understand your options, protect your rights, and navigate the legal system with confidence. Contact us today and let us help you resolve your traffic violations efficiently and effectively!

New Landlord-Tenant Laws in Minnesota: What You Need to Know

Navigating the rental market can be a daunting task, with both landlords and tenants seeking clarity on their rights and responsibilities. Minnesota has recently introduced new landlord-tenant laws aimed to enhance the rights and protections for both parties involved in the rental agreement.


Pet policies

Good news for pet owners! If you are renting a place in Minnesota, your landlord cannot demand declawing or devocalization of your furry companions.This ensures that pet owners can access housing without having to put their pet through an unnecessary and potentially harmful (and expensive!) procedure.

Your Right to Move-in/Move-out Inspections

Before moving in or out of a rental property, tenants now have the right to request inspections. This not only ensures transparency but also allows both tenants and landlords to document the condition of the rental property, helping to avoid disputes over security deposits down the road. So don’t hesitate to ask for the inspection-it’s in your best interest!


Transparent Fee Disclosure

Say goodbye to hidden fees! Landlords are now required to disclose all non-optional fees in addition to rent in the form of a “total monthly payment.” This transparency ensures that tenants are fully aware of all the costs associated with their rental agreement upfront. No surprises, just straightforward and honest dealings.

Minimum Heat Standards

Nobody likes shivering through the winter months. Thanks to the new law, landlords must ensure that heating is provided- maintaining a minimum temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit from October 1 to April 30. Allowing tenants to remain comfortable during the chilly Minnesota winters without having the crank up their own heaters.


Fair Eviction Practices

If you are facing financial difficulties and are at risk of eviction due to non-payment of rent, landlords are now required to send a letter at least 14 days prior to filing an eviction action. This will give tenants a fair chance to address issues before facing eviction proceedings.

Advance Notice for Entry

Under the new law, landlords must provide at least 24 hours’ notice for non-emergency entry into the rental property. Additionally, entry may only occur between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., allowing tenants to plan and prepare for any necessary access by the landlord.


Lease Renewals

Planning ahead is crucial, especially when it comes to where you live. Landlords are now prohibited from forcing tenants to renew a lease more than six months before the current lease expires. This allows tenants to make decisions based on their changing circumstances without feeling pressured.

These new landlord-tenant laws are designed to create a more fair and transparent rental market for everyone involved. They aim to foster healthier landlord-tenant relationships and protect both parties from legal risk. Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, it’s essential to stay informed about your rights and responsibilities under these new regulations.

If you have concerns about a rental agreement, or are a landlord looking to protect their property, don’t wait! Take the time to review your rights and obligations under these updated regulations-and don’t be afraid to reach out to Wagner, Falconer & Judd to help you simplify the process!