Articles Posted in Business

Bellas & Wachowski - Chicago Business Lawyers

2023 Business Outlook

2022 started out with the hope of a recovery from the pandemic but ended with a recession.  With the advent of 2023 we are left to ponder on what is ahead for businesses in 2023.

It’s the Recession, Stupid:   The war in Ukraine has affected the world economy which was struggling with recovery after the pandemic.  Interest rates have increased which has adversely affected the real estate market and businesses which are facing higher operating costs and higher costs for loans.  We may see more businesses shut down because of the increased costs or an inability to pay off their loans.   It is doubtful that we will seen interest rates rise to the levels we saw in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.   I recall thinking I was fortunate to get a mortgage rate of 13.5% on my first home purchase in 1979!   Businesses will need to carefully monitor their cash flow and receivables.

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Are NDAs for Sexual Harassment dead?

Employers will no longer be able to require workers to sign upfront non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) pertaining to sexual harassment incidents they have experienced or witnessed under new federal legislation that passed overwhelmingly through Congress and signed into law by President Biden on December 7.

One operative word here is “upfront.”   The Speak Out Act does not prohibit businesses from negotiating for NDAs that cover sexual harassment as part of a court settlement.  It simply means that aggrieved employees will need to speak out before filing any potential lawsuit that could lead to an NDA prohibiting them from doing so.  The new legislation also does not apply retroactively, so employers that previously had NDAs in place will not suddenly be faced with a flood of public allegations from prior to the legislation’s signing; the prohibition on upfront NDAs applies only going forward.

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Buyer of Nontraditional Legal Services, Beware

All kinds of business forms are offered online, and many of them for free.  Stand-alone paralegal services are offering various sorts of assistance to small businesses for significantly less than lawyers generally charge.  Accounting and bookkeeping services that organize businesses are increasingly positioning themselves as trusted enterprise advisers in ways that potentially can spill over into law-related issues.  And the cost of litigation continues to grow.

It’s thus understandable at some level that small business owners, who operate on modest margins in many cases, would ponder how much they need to continue to rely on their traditional partners in the legal world for the same level of services they typically have in the past and look to the web find alternatives to the services of a lawyer.

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Family Owned Business
Succession or Dissolution?

They make great stories when they’re successful, but maintaining continuity of family-owned businesses from generation to generation presents many challenges.  A family-owned business can be an excellent means of transferring and preserving generational wealth when run smoothly. Learning to work together as a family can benefit everyone and the business.

But many families just don’t get along, and those internal familial problems have a way of working themselves into the operation of the business.  When that happens, family members inevitably look to their attorneys for guidance, and at that point litigation may be the only option.

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What Would It Mean for Your Business?

Illinois voters will have the opportunity on Election Day, November 8, to vote “yea” or “nay” on an amendment to the state constitution that would protect workers’ rights to collectively bargain, while prohibiting state legislators from making Illinois a “right to work” state, in which workers in unionized workplaces can decide individually whether to join the union.  The Amendment should have no practical effect on small businesses since small businesses are generally not unionized.

Known popularly as the “Workers’ Rights Amendment”—although its official name is the more prosaic Illinois Amendment 1—the measure would amend the Bill of Rights Article of the Illinois Constitution to give employee the ability to bargain collectively, through representatives they select to negotiate wages, hours, working conditions, and worker safety.  The amendment, which received partisan support in both houses of the state legislature when it was approved for the ballot in May, also negates any local laws that prohibit this.

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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.