Articles Posted in Business

Back in 2012, facing extreme reluctance from employers, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (“EEOC”) published guidance on whether and when to hire workers with criminal backgrounds who had done their time and were, hopefully, ready to be productive citizens and workers.

But employer reluctance to consider hiring ex-cons has waned in the past seven years as the economy has improved, the population has continued to age, and at least in Illinois, the population size has fallen due to people leaving for faster-growing states and fewer immigrants coming into the state.  Meantime, more than 27,000 people got out of state prisons and more than 50,000 were released from Cook County Jail in 2018, and the National Employment Law Project estimates that 42 percent of Illinoisans have either criminal records or at least histories of arrest, which can include not only those found not guilty but those never formally charged in the first place.

It’s become somewhat easier for ex-cons (“the formerly incarcerated”) since the state legislature in 2014 prevented employers from asking on applications or early in the process about criminal history, making Illinois one of 23 states to take this step; private companies like Target had already done so.   Then in 2016 the state changed licensing laws to make more than 100 occupations more accessible to those with criminal records, including areas like healthcare, accounting and real estate, while expanding the types of convictions that can be sealed—and therefore invisible.

An arbitration agreement is a contract, in which two or more parties agree to settle a dispute outside of court.  Usually, an arbitration agreement is a clause in a larger contract. The arbitration clauses are often subjects to hotly disputed litigation, stemming from the vague verbiage and possible inconsistencies with other parts of the contract.  One of such issues – the admissibility of the “Wholly Groundless Exception” – was decided by the Supreme Court in January in the case of Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer & White Sales, Inc , 586 U.S. __ (Jan. 8, 2019).  This is a tricky issue for those in the trucking industry who include arbitration clauses in their contracts with drivers.

What Is A Wholly Groundless Exception?

A “wholly groundless exception” was born out of the “delegation clauses” ordinarily found in arbitration agreements.  A delegation clause represents an agreement between parties that an arbitrator, not the court, will determine the threshold issues of enforceability of the arbitration clause and the scope of the arbitration agreement.  In other words, it is up to an arbitrator to decide whether, according to the contract or the rule of law, an issue may be decided by arbitration or needs to be determined by a judge.  These clauses were held to be valid by the Supreme Court in 2010 in Rent-A-Center, West, Inc. v. Jackson, 561 US 63 (2010). Since then, several circuits decided that this provision must be limited; thus creating a so-called “wholly groundless exception” to the delegation clause. This exception lets parties avoid compelling arbitration in cases where the claims are so obviously not within the scope of the agreement, that it would be a waste of time to go through arbitration before filing a lawsuit.

Chicago-Business-Lawyer-George-Bellas-300x177A Legal Guide to Holiday Parties

Alas, the holiday season is upon us!  It’s time to celebrate the successes of the prior year with a festive holiday party, where employees can let off steam, socialize and spread cheer.  So, who should you contact first? A caterer… or a DJ… or your friendly Chicago business lawyer?  Although it may not sound like the most fun way to kick off celebrations, calling your company’s lawyer to discuss legal guidelines and potential liability pitfalls may be a good idea.  We don’t mean to be scrooge and kill the fun, but times have changed.

To ensure that your holiday party is memorable for the right reasons, this guide may help understand some concerns are and how to avoid potentially troublesome situations.

In late September, the social media behemoth Facebook told the World Wide Web that about 50 million accounts had suffered a security breach. Hackers had stolen password tokens for signing into Spotify, Instagram, Yelp and thousands of other third-party applications.

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Facebook Security Breach

Facebook automatically logged out the 50 million users directly affected and another 40 million who might have been implicated, and the company said that passwords weren’t compromised. But the incident serves as a warning to all who have multiple passwords across the various sites and accounts they use—in other words, virtually everyone in the First World, and certainly business owners—to take this opportunity to better manage account security.

In case you missed it, on June 21 the Supreme Court of the United States passed a judgment that states were now allowed to impose taxes on online sales.  This overrules its previous decision to rule out tax collection on stores that did not have a physical presence in that state.

So what does this law means and how is this going to look for your online business?

Before we go further into the South Dakota vs. Wayfair Inc. ruling, it is important to be familiar with how sales tax on online purchases used to work until now. The previous verdict from 1992, also known as Quill Corp. vs. North Dakota ruling, set forth that online retail merchants only had to impose taxes on their online sales in states where they had a physical presence or a “nexus.”   This means that the customers were required to pay the tax on the purchase to their home state directly.

bitcoin-1056983-300x169Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have been spreading like cyber-kudzu during the past couple of years in certain corners of the online investing world. More cautious investors still might be hanging back to make sure they’re not a crypto-bubble. And now all investors have a reason to hesitate: a series of legal and regulatory investigations that call into question their stability as investments.

Among the recent developments that could give would-be investors pause:

  • The U.S Securities and Exchange Commission in May announced that it had secured injunctive relief to halt alleged “ongoing fraud” by an unregistered, non-exempt Initial Coin Offering (ICO) that had raised as much as $21 million in cryptoassets. Titanium Blockchain Infrastructure Services, Inc., EHI Internetwork and Systems Management, Inc., and Michael Stollery, a self-described “block chain evangelist,” were collectively accused of fraud in connection with purchase, offer or sale of securities under both the Securities Exchange Act and the Securities Act. The SEC alleged that the defendants created a digital asset known as BAR and TBAR tokens, orchestrated a social media campaign based on false corporate relationships—including, most egregiously, a supposed link with the Federal Reserve Bank—and false testimonials to show their supposed expertise. The complaint further alleged that the group of defendants had generated demand by offering various incentives and creating a sense of urgency, then inflated the price of the tokens on the secondary market in a “pump and dump,” or “create and inflate” scheme. Such schemes are seen as a widespread problem on crypto-exchanges.

Cryptocurrency has been a trending topic of discussion for the last several years. Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum have captured the public’s attention with their unstable, and highly fluctuating market values, as well as their promises for quick and easy rewards.

Geo Bellas Chicago Business Lawyer

Currency in the Digital World

But what exactly are cryptocurrencies? And how secure are they as an investment?     Questions such as these are precisely what Federal and State regulators, as well as Congress, are struggling to explore and answer.

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Under a new Illinois law, non-compete agreements must be premised on a legitimate business interest and narrowly tailored in terms of time, activity, and place.  In addition, under the newly enacted Illinois Freedom to Work Act, employers are prohibited from entering into non-competes with employees who make less than $13/hour.

To prove the point, the Illinois Attorney General filed a suit in October against a payday loan company (Check Into Cash) because the employer required all store employees, including those making under $13 an hour, to agree to a one-year non-compete.  The suit alleges that the non-compete prohibits all store employees from working “directly or indirectly . . . as an employee, officer, consultant, or in any other capacity, for any individual, firm or entity, which provides deferred presentment, deferred deposit, and/or any other payday advance services, . . . and/or any other consumer lending services or https://www.businessattorneychicago.com/files/2017/11/11.1.17-1-300x150.jpgmoney services.”  The suit contends that the non-compete in question: (1) prohibits employees from working within 15 miles of any Check Into Cash location, not just the store the employee works in; (2) prohibits employees from working for any company that directly or indirectly provides consumer lending services, regardless of whether that company competes with Check Into Cash; (3) applies equally to all store employees, regardless of position or time spent with the company; and (4) applies to employees who make less than $13 an hour.  See: http://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/pressroom/2017_10/20171025d.html

Employers should review their non-compete agreements to ensure compliance with Illinois law.  All restrictive covenants should: (1) be supported by adequate consideration; (2) narrowly tailored, in time, activity, and geography, to protect the employer’s legitimate business interests; and (3) not apply to low-wage employees as defined by the Freedom to Work Act.  If the employer is concerned about a low-wage employee’s exposure to trade secret information, they should also consider other means of protection, such as confidentiality agreements.

Can Student Loans Ever Be Discharged?

Yes, and there’s a new tool to help bankruptcy lawyers deter29905732 mine whether clients qualify

Contrary to common perception, not all student loans can be wiped out in bankruptcy court. Although the Bankruptcy Code does protect federal loans and some private loans from discharge, student loans can be discharged if the debtor can prove an “undue hardship,” which usually means you’re living in poverty and not likely to escape any time soon.

BIG WOES FOR ZILLO

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Zillo, the gigantic online real-estate database company, has a gigantic headache, legally speaking. It is currently the target of a class action lawsuit in Illinois. Zillow is the website that allows a person to search for properties for sale–properties located just about anywhere. And Zillow’s cornerstone feature–Zestimate–allows one to look up the estimated value of a property–most any property, most anywhere, whether it is for sale or not.  (Your own home may well be listed there right now; just go to the site and put in your address.)

Lots of people love Zillo; it is free, comprehensive and convenient.   Its legal problems stem from its Zestimate feature.