As a business owner, do you understand what a Rule is? How about a Regulation? If so, how are those similar and different from an actual Law?

They all sound like the same things – an English teacher would tell you they are all synonyms. But ask a lawyer and they will tell you they are different things, with different implications. It is vital for you to have a basic understanding of the difference – because as a business owner you come into contact with a variety of different regulating authorities, including Minnesota Department of Commerce, Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Department of Revenue, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Minnesota Department of Transportation, etc., to say nothing of the federal offices or the city and county offices that are authorized to regulate your business affairs.

Laws are enacted by the legislature, and are set forth in statutes – there are both Minnesota statutes and Federal statutes (there are also laws that come from the courts themselves). Statutes are laws, and such laws are interpreted by the courts when there is a disagreement as to what they mean concerning a particular set of facts.

Rules, on the other hand, are not enacted by the legislature. Rather, the legislature will enact a law (a statute) and task a state agency to set forth Rules implanting that law.

So what’s the difference? A Rule, which governs the very agency that was tasked to adopt it, may be too far reaching, may conflict with another rule, may be interpreted differently by different employees, or may be applied inconsistently. For example, say a state agency enacts a Rule, but that Rule goes beyond the authority of the statute, that Rule may not be legal because it doesn’t comport with the statute (the Law) that allowed for its creation. The legislature doesn’t have the time or the resources to draft all of the Rules that state agencies operate under. The legislature has granted that authority to the agencies, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that those Rules are iron clad under the Law.

Why is it important to understand the differences? Just because you are told by a state agency, a federal agency, or by local government that a Rule requires you to do something, doesn’t necessarily mean it is so. If you find your business is adversely affected by a Rule, or that a Rule just doesn’t seem to make sense, you should consult a lawyer. We would be happy to sit down with you and help advise and protect your business, and give you advice on the Rules as they apply to your business.