The Minnesota Legislature recently passed a law that will make it easier for employees to sue their employers without representation by an attorney.  Conciliation court, also known as “small claims” court, allows parties to resolve disputes without representation by an attorney.  The conciliation court process is shorter, easier, and less formal than litigation in state or federal district courts.  Currently, only claims that are for $7,500.00 or less may be heard in conciliation court.
In the most recent legislative session, Senator Julianne Ortman introduced legislation that will raise the limit for conciliation court claims to $10,000.00, effective August 1, 2012.  In August of 2014, the conciliation court limit will raise again to $15,000.00.  The legislation was passed by both the Minnesota Senate and House of Representatives and was signed into law by Governor Mark Dayton.
Takeaways:  The effect of the new conciliation court legislation for employers is that it will be easier and cheaper for employees to sue their employers over small claims in the coming years.  The most common types of employment disputes that are resolved through conciliation court are claims that relate to disputes about payment of wages or commissions.  The new rules for conciliation court provide a good opportunity for employers to review their payroll practices and commission policies.  Clear communication about what will be paid and when it will be paid can help employers minimize the risk of misunderstandings and disputes later on.