COVID-19 UPDATE from Bellas & Wachowski

Articles Posted in COVID-19 Pandemic

Chicago Small Business Lawyer

The Key to Surviving as a Small Business

How can your business – and you – survive the COVID-19 pandemic?

It’s a tall order.   But small business owners have means of surviving.   The corollary shutdowns have impacted 20% of small businesses, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and restrictions have affected a far greater number. A study by the University of Illinois, University of Chicago and Harvard University and its business school estimates more than 100,000 small businesses are permanently shuttered. Not a surprise since many small firms don’t generally have more than a few months’ cash reserve.

eviction1-300x251

Tenant Evictions

Updated August 24

Chicago landlords have extra hurdles in front of them if they want to evict tenants between now and September 25 as stipulated by the COVID-19 Eviction Protection Ordinance that passed City Council, and all Illinois landlords face a different terrain under Rules 120 and 139 promulgated by the Illinois Supreme Court, both of which occurred last month.

George Bellas Chicago Business Lawyer George Bellas answers questions for business owners.

Workman’s Comp for Essential Workers

An emergency rule promulgated in April by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission gave certain classes of “essential” workers the ability to claim COVID-19 as an occupational disease vis-à-vis the ability to collect workers compensation.  This is a change that every Illinois business should be aware of.

The commission withdrew the rule after a court challenge, but last month Governor J.B. Pritzker signed legislation amending the Illinois Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act (820 ILCS 310, codified as Public Act 0633) to say that a “COVID-19 first responder or front-line worker” has the rebuttable presumption of having contracted the disease due to hazards and exposures in the workplace.

eviction-300x251

Evictions Due to Pandemic Issues

The moratorium is scheduled to end on July 31, 2020, it may very well be extended again. Once the moratorium period ends, Illinois landlords can file eviction suits due to the non-payment of rent.

NOTICE TO LANDLORDS:  Chicago residential tenants, who have lost income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, can respond to their landlords within five days of receiving an eviction notice under a Chicago Ordinance.  The notice must be in writing, whether in the form of a letter, email or text message. The notice can be as simple as, “I have been unable to pay rent because I have been financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.” For a more formal template, go to: www.chicago.gov/eviction

Workplace-Regulations-300x251

Health and Safety Regulations

On June 24, Virginia became the first state in the country to implement workplace health and safety rules to protect workers from coronavirus infections. Could Illinois be next?   Whatever happens, these actions should serve as an example of what every  business should do.   

Virginia’s health and safety board agreed to create finalized rules after the state’s Department of Labor and Industry drafted an emergency temporary standard in late May. The office of Governor Ralph Northam said the idea arose because the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has received more than 4,000 complaints related to coronavirus but only issued one citation, according to the Washington Post.

Chicago Business Lawyer George Bellas answers questions for business owners.
Updated August 9.

The Chicago area and Illinois business owners are facing a number of challenges and the CoronaVirus pandemic is threatening the continued viability of their business.   Here are some of the more frequently questions asked by business owners.

  • Paycheck Protection Program Forgiveness

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.

For the first time to our knowledge a judge has ordered rent relief for a Chicago restaurant.   The bankruptcy judge ruled that the “Act of God” clause in the lease gives the restaurant rent relief when it was forced to closed during the the COVID-19 mandatory closings.

George Bellas Chicago Business Lawyer George Bellas answers questions for business owners.

CoronaVirus FAQs

The force majeure clause in the lease of Italian restaurant Giglio’s State Street Tavern eliminated the restaurant’s obligation to pay full rent during the time when the City and State implemented the “stay-at-home order” to deal with the pandemic.   (For more info on the force majeure contact clause, see my other Blog on force majeure.)

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order on April 1 designed to protect health care providers from litigation arising out of COVID-19 cases. How does it do so, and how well would it work in practice if a lawsuit were filed?  The Emergency or Disaster Treatment Protection Act notes that statewide public health emergencies require “an enormous response” from different levels of governments working alongside private and public health care providers.

As such, the order attempts to “promote the public health, safety and welfare of all citizens by broadly protecting the health care facilities and health care professionals in this state from liability that may result from treatment of individuals with COVID-19 under conditions resulting from circumstances associated with the public health emergency.”

Pritzker’s order declares immunity from “any liability, civil or criminal, for any harm or damages alleged to have been sustained as a result of an act or omission in the course of arranging for or providing health care services,” so long as COVID-19 emergency rules and other applicable laws are followed; the act or omission related to the COVID-19 outbreak is in support of the state’s directives; and the services are provided in good faith.

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.