COVID-19 UPDATE from Bellas & Wachowski

Articles Posted in Business

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Small Businesses Reopening

As of today June 26, Illinois has reached Stage 4 of coronavirus reopening, which allows essentially all types of businesses to reopen provided they observe public health safety guidance and capacity limits, with no more than 50 people allowed in one place.

What does this mean for businesses, and how can they protect themselves—and their employees and customers—medically, financially and legally?

D07714B9-62C2-4CD4-9E64-620ACBE27095-300x251How concerned should small businesses be about wrongful discharge lawsuits from plaintiffs terminated after alleging publicly that their employer did not follow health and safety guidelines to combat the spread of COVID-19?

The first clues may emerge from one of the first employment lawsuits related to the pandemic, filed in late May in Dallas County, Iowa. The plaintiff is a former county jail employee who called a hotline set up by the Department of Corrections after a co-worker who tested positive for COVID-19 was allowed to resume work due to being asymptomatic.

The sheriff’s office ultimately decided that the infected employee would not return, but the sheriff allegedly grew furious after hearing of the hotline call, according to the lawsuit, which says he viewed the plaintiff as disloyal and disrespectful of the chain of command.

Chicago Business Lawyer George Bellas answers questions for business owners.

CoronaVirus FAQs

Business owners are anxious to reopen their doors and revive their sales.  But there are concerns that the proper precautions be taken to protect their employees and customers, at a time when no treatment or vaccine for COVID-19 appears imminent.

As governors and mayors begin to ease restrictions on businesses, previously shuttered retailers, restaurants and others have another concern that could hold them back from reopening just as surely: whether and to what extent they can be held legally liable for employees or customers who contract coronavirus.

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).

Help with Business Law Issues

What to do when your business is forced to close due to the CoronaVirus?

Does your business insurance policy cover the lost business due to the pandemic?  Most businesses carry commercial property insurance, which often includes business income coverage provisions.

Recent events have caused our Chicago area business clients to raise questions as to what to do when their business is forced to close by Governor Pritzker’s “Stay-At-Home Order.”    Business owners have some options they might want to consider.

As coronavirus puts workplaces and indeed whole states including Illinois into “shelter in place” mode, employers need to respond quickly and sensitively to a host of health-related issues that no one anticipated dealing with as recently as a few weeks ago.

Emploment Issues in the COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 Pandemic and Employment Issues

These questions apply less directly to the many employees who are able to work from home during the crisis, but those whose employers remain open and who need to be on site to do their jobs will have to strike a delicate balance with their employers between safety, and performance of one’s job duties (and continuing to get paid).

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.

If you’ve watched any of the Democratic presidential debates, you might have heard candidate and entrepreneur Andrew Yang – you know, the guy with the $1,000 per month guaranteed income plan – talk about something called the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.”   This is a recognition that technology is imploding and changing everything about our lives.

4th-Industrial-Revolution-300x225In describing the ways social media and technology have redefined communication, in 2009 journalist Graeme Wood said that  “Change has never happened this fast before, and it will never be this slow again.”  

Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, coined the phrase “fourth industrial revolution” in his 2016 best seller.  This is techie-speak for disruptive technologies and trends like robotics, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and the Internet of Things – i.e. everyday devices like doorbells and thermostats that you can control remotely – that are changing how we live and work.  This Fourth Industrial Revolution is bringing together digital, physical and biological systems.  It will open up our minds to all kinds of new things:  Mobile supercomputing; Artificially-intelligent robots; Self-driving cars; Neuro-technological brain enhancements; Genetic editing.  We can see the evidence of these revolutionary changes all around us – and it’s happening faster and faster.

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.