A federal judge has granted class action status to a lawsuit brought this year by eight custodial workers who charged Capital Building Services Group with underpaying, failing to provide proper records and other violations of Minnesota and federal employment law.

The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson means that Capital Building of Illinois must “conspicuously” post information about the suit in affected Macy’s and Herberger’s stores cleaned by Capital Building, and provide payroll records that will allow attorneys to solicit hundreds of Capital workers by mail.

Adam Hansen, an attorney for the workers, said: “We’re pleased. This is an important step and will get the word out to the other employees beyond the original eight who brought suit. The notice will be posted and sent in English, Spanish and Somali, and [inform] what the case is about, and consent forms, which employees can sign and submit to become part of the class action.”

Hansen also confirmed there have been unspecified settlement talks to the lawsuit.

Capital Building, which cleans 300-plus buildings in 25 states, denied it was using its electronic-payroll systems to short Minnesota workers who clean Macy’s and Herberger’s stores, arguing that the eight original plaintiffs failed to properly “clock-in” or “clock-out” or did not request the detailed payroll information to which they are entitled.

Abraham Quevedo Orantes of Minneapolis, a former cleaner and supervisor, said he was forced to work seven days a week and never received anything approaching the $36,000 per year he was promised as an area manager.

He also alleged “wage theft,” or payment of less than actual hours worked to employees he supervised.

State credit unions target high school market

Since 2010, credit unions have opened branches in nine Minnesota high schools, most recently Royal Credit Union in Eden Prairie.

The Minnesota Credit Union Network says this is an educational benefit because it trains some young workers and dovetails with the interest of schools in teaching students about personal finance and thrift.

“In order for Minnesota to continue to be a business leader, financial literacy programs and measures need to be expanded wherever possible to ensure future generations thrive,” state Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, said on a recent visit to The Perch, the branch of Royal Credit Union that opened at Eden Prairie High School in September. “I commend [the school and Royal] for their efforts to help our youth discover the tools they will need in an increasingly complex financial world.”

There’s not a lot of assets held at these branches, including Hiway Federal Credit Union’s recently opened branch at St. Paul Johnson High School. But those credit union marketers also know to start developing customers early who eventually will open checking accounts, as well as lucrative credit card and mortgage loans.

The commercial bankers grimace because they’ve always seen credit unions as the government-protected wards of the financial industry. Credit unions are member-owned organizations that pay no corporate tax on profits, although employees pay payroll and income taxes and depositors pay taxes on interest and dividends.

However, the commercial banks, which range from huge U.S. Bancorp that has several times more assets in Minnesota than all the state’s credit unions combined, have been unable over the years to get Congress to revoke the tax benefits of politically popular credit unions. And they are competitive in products and services with the much-smaller community banks that dominate the Minnesota financial landscape.

Solar-garden cluster limit appealed

Sunrise Energy Ventures, a Minnetonka company that proposed some of the largest shared-solar projects in Xcel Energy’s Minnesota electric service area, has appealed a regulatory limit on their size.

Sunrise wants to build centrally located “community solar gardens” that offer homeowners and businesses an alternative to rooftop solar panels. But Xcel objected to proposed clusters of up to 50 adjacent solar gardens, so state regulators set limits. Sunrise says the August ruling wiped out 85 percent of its proposed solar projects.

In a challenge filed with the Minnesota Court of Appeals, Sunrise wants the size restriction thrown out as unfair and unconstitutional, and seeks a partial stay. The appeal challenges actions of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, which set the rules.

But four other solar garden developers are worried. They told the Appeals Court that a stay, or delay, in the regulatory process could hurt them. Solar companies are eager to finish projects in 2016. After that, a 30 percent solar tax credit drops to 10 percent.

David Shaffer

St. David’s $13.7 million financing complete

Minnetonka-based St. David’s Center, provider of child development services and training for mental health professionals, has completed the most ambitious capital campaign in its history thanks to generous parents, business people, foundations and other. Executive Director Julie Sjordal reports the $13.7 million campaign goal has been exceeded.

The expanded facility will serve thousands of families over its life, create next-generation early education, intervention and treatment facilities, a children’s mental health clinic and autism day treatment program. The expansion will increase the building footprint by 6,800 square feet, or about 13 percent, and integrate an adjacent 2 ½-acre woods for educational and therapeutic services. The $13.7 million includes $3.75 million from the 2014 Minnesota Legislature.

Department 56 has a new owner, again

Enesco, the Illinois-based parent company of Eden Prairie-based Department 56, has sold itself to Balmoral Funds, a Los Angeles-based private equity fund focused on small-to-mid sized businesses. Terms weren’t released.

Department 56, once part of Bachman’s, was spun off as a hot-to-not public company, went bankrupt in 2008 and has been owned by a couple private companies since then.