COVID-19 UPDATE from Bellas & Wachowski

Articles Posted in COVID-19 Pandemic

maska-300x251

What Can Small Businesses Do About the Maskless?

As more states lift requirements that people wear COVID-19 masks indoors when in public, what can small businesses do to protect their employees—and other customers who still prefer to wear masks?

As of April 5, more than one-third of states (18) lacked mask requirements, some of which never had them in the first place, according to the Associated Press. But business owners are certainly legally entitled to require them if they so choose, given that their public-facing spaces are still private property that they either rent or own, as long as they don’t discriminate. Customers who refuse to wear a mask, are asked to leave and stubbornly do not are therefore trespassing, and business owners could involve police if they so choose.

https://www.businessattorneychicago.com/files/2021/01/Preparing-for-the-road-ahead.-300x251.png

How to Prepare for 2021

Wow, 2020 was a year to forget! I hesitate to say it was interesting because it was not. It was more like a nightmare as we coped with a public health crisis, an economic crisis, a political crisis, and a civil rights crisis. Let’s put 2020 in a lead box and drop it in the deepest part of the ocean!

Unfortunately, the pandemic has forced a number of businesses to close. Some businesses have actually thrived and others have adapted and are working diligently to succeed. Mostly, it has altered how businesses operate and tested our resilience. Some people have learned that working remotely is a viable alternative, while others have found themselves struggling to survive in a world which places demands on the use of technology to survive.

Chicago Business Lawyer George Bellas answers questions for business owners.
Updated December 7

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.

  • Residential Evictions can proceed under certain conditions

eviction1-300x251

Tenant Evictions

Updated October 19

Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order on October 16 extending the statewide moratorium on residential evictions for another 30 days. Pritzker first put a hold on residential evictions through an executive order on March 20, the same day he issued a statewide stay-at-home order in response to the 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.

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.

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.)