COVID-19 UPDATE from Bellas & Wachowski

Articles Posted in Bellas and Wachowski Law Firm

As Chicago area business litigation lawyers this is a question we frequently are asked.

E-Signatures in Illinois

Electronic Signatures are Enforceable under Illinois Laws. 

E-Signatures are permissible and valid in Illinois under the Illinois Electronic Commerce Security Act (the ECSA).

Force Majeure Clauses

SBA Loans to Small Businesses affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

THERE IS FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE AVAILABLE TO SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS.

Practically every small business is feeling the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world.   The restaurant and hospitality industries have been hit the hardest, but every business has seen the adverse effects.

Did someone say force majeure?

Force Majeure Clauses

COVID-19 Pandemic and Force Majeure clauses

According to Black’s Law Dictionary, force majeure is defined as “An event or effect that can be neither anticipated nor controlled.”   It is generally viewed as an unexpected event that prevents someone from doing or completing something that he or she had agreed to do.  The term is usually applied to acts of God (such as floods and hurricanes), riots, strikes and wars.  It is unclear, however, if the term includes an epidemic, such as COVID-19.   That legal term for unforeseen circumstances resulting in non-fulfillment of a contract is likely to be invoked widely this spring and summer as businesses are unable to make good on commitments due to the corona virus crisis.

As Harvey Weinstein rape trial moves forward, has your Chicago area business kept up with the increased awareness of sexual harassment and moved forward with adequate policy and cultural safeguards to ensure that you’re not the next target of the #MeToo movement?

George Bellas Business Attorney

#MeToo Movement is changing business environment protections.  

A survey conducted by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, in conjunction with the software company SAP, found that one-third of U.S. workers and 38% of supervisors say they have changed their office behavior as a result of #MeToo.

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.

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:

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.

Employers who collect fingerprints, face scans, or other biometric information such as retina or iris scans from employees or customers would be well-advised to ask permission and explain their purpose for collecting this data. If they don’t, they could be legally liable.

Biometric-Illinois-Law-300x185That’s in the wake of a relatively liberal interpretation of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), which regulates the handling of biometric data, from the Illinois Supreme Court. The result of the ruling is that state-level lawsuits have greater latitude than those filed in federal court—but even suits dismissed at the federal level can sometimes be refiled in state court.  The law remains in flux when it comes to what, exactly, constitutes biometric data.  Photographs are not considered biometric identifiers, for example, but a software application that collects facial scans could be—and even federal courts have allowed for relatively broad interpretations on this front, mindful of the galloping pace of technological advances.

The Illinois Supreme Court in January defined an aggrieved person as anyone whose information is collected without their consent or knowledge, even if they were not harmed in the process, in the case Rosenbach v. Six Flags Entertainment Corp. (2019 IL 123186), issued on January 25 of this year and previously detailed on this blog.   This means employers are liable for $1,000 in damages for each negligent violations and $5,000 for each intentional violations.  For example, if an employer fingerprints employees each day as they check in and out of the office, and does not notify employees of the collection and storage of these fingerprints, the business could be fined $2,000 per day per employee.  Perhaps not surprisingly, at least 90 class-action lawsuits alleging violations of BIPA have been filed since January in Illinois state courts.

Legal Marijuana Shouldn’t Mean Dazed and Confused Workers!

Starting on January 1 consumers will be able to buy marijuana for recreational use from licensed sellers.   Pot users will no longer need to worry about fines or jail time – but employees will need to pay attention to their employers’ policies about drug screenings and the use of cannabis at work.

Employers should consider how they want to handle the legalization of cannabis in terms of workplace policies, written guidelines and staff training on the many issues that employers will be facing.  Employers should take the time to review Section 10-50 of the “Illinois Cannabis Control Act” to see what protections they do and do not have.  Among these are:

You might not realize it’s happening, and you definitely might not realize you have the right to object. But when you enter an airport in 2019, it’s possible that your airline—or the federal government—are scanning images of your face for their security-related purposes.

George Bellas Chicago Business Lawyer

Say No to Airport Facial Recognition

This facial-recognition technology can be used during check-in, baggage drop, security and boarding. For the most part so far, it’s mostly only been deployed for international flights, to confirm passenger identity at the behest of Customs and Border Protection. But airlines and the Transportation Security Administration are considering doing so for domestic flights, as well.