Articles Posted in Business

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Bellas & Wachowski – Chicago Business Lawyers

Small businesses with 16 to 24 employees that have been operational for at least two years and don’t already offer qualifying retirement plans will, as of November 1, 2023 be subject to the requirements of the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program Act. 

Under an amendment passed last year, those with 5 to 15 employees must participate in the act—which has created a state-sponsored retirement savings program to boost access for private-sector employees—as of November 1, 2023.

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The City of Chicago’s newly amended sexual harassment ordinance, which takes effect July 1, will bring an enhanced definition of the term, new written policy and notice requirements, new training requirements for employers, additional safety measures, a longer statute of limitations—and heftier penalties for those found guilty.

Every Chicago business must comply with these new laws.   And the new laws should be words-to-the-wise to all Illinois Businesses in ensuring compliance with state law, which we’ve detailed in this earlier post.

The City’s definition of sexual harassment starts with the notion that people of all gender identities can be victims.  Among the acts that fall within the definition are unwelcome sexual advances or sexual conduct, requests for sexual favors or conduct of a sexual nature, and sexual misconduct—an addition to the definition—that involves coercion, abuse of authority or misuse of the alleged accused’s employment position. 

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Subchapter V for Small Business Owners

For the past two years, small businesses whose bottom lines were impacted by the onset of COVID-19 enjoyed greater protections while going through Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganizations in the form of higher debt limits under the Small Business Reorganization Act.

That act, passed in August 2019 and enacted as of February 2020, established what came to be called “Subchapter V” of the SBRA, aimed at providing a simpler, less costly and ultimately more beneficial Chapter 11 process for small business debtors who would struggle to afford administrative and other costs.

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Repayment of Student Debt by Employers

Retaining employees, and attracting new ones, has always been at the forefront of employer’s minds, but never more so than right now.  An extension of the student loan repayment plan for employers is one attractive way to stabilize your workforce.

The CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) extended tax-free employer sponsored student loan repayment through 2025.  This means that employers can give each employee up to $5,250 of non-taxable money to pay off student loans per year.  The amount the employer contributes is deductible by the employer and it is not income to the employee.    It is the best situation for both employer and employee!

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The Metaverse

The metaverse isn’t just for gamers anymore.

With the rise of block-chain technology, cryptocurrencies, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs)—along with the increasingly realistic-looking realms created in virtual and augmented reality—these three-dimensional realms, best known for games like Fortnite and Roblox, are increasingly becoming a place to do business.

Bellas & Wachowski, Chicago Business Lawyers

NFTs as a Business Asset

Simply put, NFT’s (or “tokens”) are digital assets. Various examples include movies, drawings, music, and digital artwork.

By their very definition, NFT’s are non-fungible, meaning that they cannot be traded for something else.  For example, Da Vinci’s original Mona Lisa is non-fungible; only one original version exists, and there will only ever be one.  Contrarily, U.S. dollars are fungible—trade one dollar for another dollar and you end up with the same thing.

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Data Management Key to Business Success

Small businesses should have thorough, regular—and secure—processes for gathering, storing and interpreting data, which in the “Information Age” has become critical to staying a step ahead of competitors and the marketplace as a whole.

Without deliberately planning and engineering the most effective ways to integrate various types of data flows in every part of your business operations, you can’t fully understand how data can help you make key decisions and otherwise leverage its benefits for key purposes.

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New CDC Guidelines

The CDC has released new mask guidelines easing former recommendations. The CDC is no longer using vaccination status as the benchmark for mask guidelines and are now using low, medium, and high levels for counties to measure COVID risk and mask recommendations.

For low level counties no masking is required. In medium level counties individuals can consult with their doctors about mask needs and recommends masks indoors for contact with high-risk individuals. Finally, in high level counties masking is recommended for all individuals indoors in public.


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Independent Contractors

A recent Illinois Court of Appeals decision in an Illinois Wage Claim Act case puts a magnifying glass on the sticky wicket employers can find themselves when they are unable to pay an outside contractor, at least under certain circumstances.

The decision in O’Malley v. Udo, 2022 IL App (1st) 200007 (Jan. 14, 2022) revolved around an independent contractor who was paid $1,000 per work day plus expenses, was sent 1099 forms at the end of the tax year, was mostly free to work from his Evanston home, and otherwise clearly identified in the written agreement between the parties – and at his insistence – as a consultant.

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Do you need a business license?

In the past two years about 30,000 new businesses were started in Illinois.   Most of those new business had to get a specific license for their particular type of business.   Not all businesses do, but many will need an Illinois Business License specific to their occupation, which vouches for the fact that you’re qualified to perform a certain type of skill and reassures customers that you will be accountable for your work.

For starters, you will need a Certificate of Registration common to all types of businesses. Then, you will need to drill down to your particular type of occupation, perhaps using this page on the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation website.