We all get them … and we get them all the time … and we are all tired of them … and we all cuss them out!

Many of those calls are illegal.   Some of the robocalls you may have agreed to receive when you signed up for certain services – like those reminders that your prescription needs to be refilled – and those are legal.  But the automated, unsolicited calls coming from other countries are finally getting some attention from the federal government.

TRACED-Act-300x167The dead heads in the House and Senate have finally agreed on something and adopted the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act (“TRACED Act”) at the end of 2019 and it was signed into law at the end of 2019.  The TRACED Act’s stated purpose is to limit the increasing number of illegal robocalls and other violations of the telemarketing laws.  The Act also gives the FCC more powers to punish violators under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) and to seek out violators in foreign countries.

Guns in Your Place of Business?

Can a business ban guns from the business and workplace?

If a customer walked into your retail business or professional office carrying a gun, would you be comfortable with that, or would it feel a little too much like the O.K. Corral? What if they were carrying their weapon openly?

Businesses in Oklahoma (postal abbreviation: OK) have had a new reason to ask themselves those questions since November 1, when a change in state law enabled most Oklahoma residents to carry firearms without a license. That follows a 2012 law that gave licensed firearms carriers the ability to open-carry weapons.   Most businesses in the state do not seem to have changed their policies, according to the Oklahoma Retail Merchants Association, which has more than 300 members including both mom-and-pop Main Street businesses and national chains. While some have been considering the question, most continue to welcome gun-toting patrons.

Non-competition agreements (“non-competes”) have long been viewed as viable means for Chicago area business owners to prohibit former employees from taking confidential information and using it to unfairly compete against the business.   Non-competes are actually prohibited in some states, but not Illinois.

Illinois allows the use of non-competes with some limitations.  Illinois employers are allowed to use non-competes provided they reasonably protect the employer’s legitimate business interests.  What this means has been left to the courts, and there has been a steady erosion of the effectiveness of non-competes by limiting the scope of those agreements.

Illinois has passed several laws recently which limit the effectiveness of employee non-competes and which should be of concern to Chicago area business owners:

Chicago Business Lawyer

Illinois Cannabis Laws create new issues for Property Owners

Cannabis may be legal in Illinois after January 1, but it is still illegal under federal laws.  This will make for some interesting discrepancies in how the laws will be applied.  Federal law remains in direct conflict with the new Illinois state law.  There are a number of issues that property owners should be concerned with on January 1.

Federal Subsidized Housing:  In federal subsidized housing – like the Housing Authority of Cook County – medical or recreational use of marijuana has been and remains prohibited in the Housing Authority’s housing programs. This includes participants using Housing Choice (“Section 8”) Vouchers in the private rental market,

Lung injuries related to vaping began to appear on hospitals’ radar screens last summer, and the e-cigarette industry has been singed by criticism ever since.

Chicago Business Lawyer

Chicago Business Lawyer George Bellas warns about health issues with vaping

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had reported 42 deaths based on e-cigarette or vaping product use as of December 10, along with more than 2,400 cases of lung injury related to the products. In response, some cities and other local bodies have banned either e-cigarette flavors, or just e-cigarettes overall.

The threshold for white-collar employees to be classifiable as “exempt” will rise about 50% to $684 per week (about $35,568 per year) on January 1, 2020. Employers will need to make adjustments to ensure they’re compliant with this updated rule, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, announced on September 24 by the U.S. Department of Labor.  By “exempt” I am referring to employees who do not qualify for overtime pay.

The rule change—which boosts the threshold from $455 per week and $23,600 per year, as previously set in 2004—will affect about 1.3 million workers, the DOL says, who could be reclassified as “non-exempt,” and thus eligible for overtime pay. Under the new rule, employers will be able to fill up to 10% of the $684 per week with non-discretionary bonuses, incentives and commissio

The new Illinois laws legalizing cannabis has a benefit to old stoners – expungement of criminal records.

Among the several provisions of the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act which takes effect on January 1 are provisions that include some dramatic criminal justice reforms.  The most important of these provisions are the expungement provisions for certain past cannabis-related criminal convictions.

Chicago Business Lawyer

Illinois laws now permit expungement of prior cannabis related crimes.

ADA Compliant Websites

Is Your Website ADA Compliant?

I have previously reminded business owners that their websites must be ADA compliant in a post titled: “Is Your Website ADA Compliant”.  And a recent (non) decision by the U.S. Supreme Court affirms that position.

As a followup to this post, the U.S. Supreme Court recently declined a petition for certiorari in Domino’s Pizza v. Guillermo Robles, letting stand the Ninth Circuit’s decision holding that Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applied to websites and mobile applications for businesses with physical locations.    In the Domino’s Pizza case a blind customer asserted he could not order a custom pizza from Domino’s website or mobile application, even while using screen reading software.   The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the ADA applied to Domino’s website and mobile application because the ADA mandates that places of public accommodation provide auxiliary aids and services to disabled individuals.   The Appeals court stated that “Domino’s website and app facilitate access to the goods and services of a place of public accommodation – Domino’s physical restaurants.”

New Employment Issues

Employment Discrimination issues explained by George Bellas Chicago Business Lawyer

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all other places that are open to the general public.[1]   When it comes to employment, the ADA provides that employers covered by the statute may not discriminate against “qualified individuals” with a disability with respect to employment matters.[2]  The ADA defines such individuals as applicants or employees who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the job.[3]    Thus, the most contested issue becomes the question of whether or not the employee has a disability, as that term is defined by the Act.

One type of claimed disability that is increasingly the subject of litigation is obesity.  Although courts initially were reluctant to recognize obesity as a qualifying disability for purposes of the ADA protections, courts are increasingly willing to consider obesity as a disability giving plaintiffs status to raise ADA claims.