Articles Posted in Small Business

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Supreme Court Ruling on Religious Reasons

Small businesses and other employers are likely to find it more difficult to refuse requests for religious accommodations after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in a recent case, Groff v. DeJoy, which concerned a postal worker who unsuccessfully requested to be off-the-clock every Sunday—when the post office still makes deliveries for Amazon—citing his Evangelical Christian faith.

Gerald Groff, a Pennsylvania man, nonetheless kept being put on the schedule for Sundays and disciplined for not working while his co-workers were stretched thin attempting to cover his routes. He resigned, sued, lost his case and lost again on appeal—but the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in June established a higher standard for employers who claimed they would face an “undue hardship” to make religious accommodations.

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You Can, But Should You?

To begin with, employers thinking about using AI such as ChatGPT during hiring and selection need to familiarize themselves with the technology at a conceptual level, and then look closely at—and understand well enough so they can explain to others—how AI integrates with their recruiting tools and practices.

A key piece of state legislation in Illinois pertaining to the use of AI is the Artificial Intelligence Video Interview Act (820 ILCS 42/1), which lays down various stipulations for the recording of video interviews and subsequent use of AI while evaluating said recordings.

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Aret Smart Contracts Smart?

Imagine if the paper on which your business’ contracts are written could somehow come to life and automatically send payments to your collectors—and receive payments from your debtors—at the appropriate times, as different provisions of said contract are triggered.

That’s more or less how electronic smart contracts, self-enforcing pieces of computer code set up to execute on the blockchain, more efficiently streamline certain processes. While sometimes legally enforceable, they have their drawbacks and will probably never completely replace traditional legal contracts.

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Are Non-Competes Really Enforceable?

Most non-compete agreements between employers and employees violate the National Labor Relations Act, according to a May 30 memo from Jennifer A. Abruzzo, general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board.  Such agreements, which bar employees from taking certain types of positions or running certain types of businesses after leaving their current positions, specifically run afoul of Sections 7 and 8(a)(1) of the act, she wrote.

Section 7 provides that employees have a “right to self-organization, to form, join or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection,” Abruzzo noted.  As such, under most non-competes, employers engage in an unfair labor practice that violates Section 8(a)(1) because they “interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in [S]ection 7.”

Crypto-300x251The pros and cons of accepting Bitcoin and other online payments for small businesses

What are the risks of small businesses taking payments in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies? What are the rewards?

But first, for the uninitiated, what are cryptocurrencies in the first place? They are decentralized digital exchange media that enable buyer-to-seller transactions to take place without a bank or other third-party processor involved. No matter how small your business is, you can take payments over this medium, as more than 30% of U.S. small businesses now do, according to data from Skynova. Bitcoin and Etherium are among the most commonly used.

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Self-certification for veteran-owned and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses is being eliminated, and a number of other changes went into effect on January 1 as a result of an updated Final Rule from the Small Business Administration (SBA) about these types of awards, details of which will be posted in a new section of the SBA’s regulations.

Until now, only contractors seeking status as either a Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB) or Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB)—defined as 51% or more owned and controlled by a veteran or service-disabled veteran, respectively—competing through the VA’s Veterans First Contracting Program have been required to petition the VA’s Center for Verification and Evaluation to attain qualified status.  Going forward, however, self-certification will only be an option for those seeking subcontracts and for goaling purposes.

The updated Final Rule also expands certification eligibility for these classes of small businesses, eliminating the requirement that firms be labeled as “small” in their primary North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code. After January 1, contractors considered small under any NAICS code listed in its System for Award Management (SAM) profile—not just the primary code—will be considered qualified.

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Can You Keep a Secret?

At the federal level, the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 created a pathway for civil action due to misappropriation of trade secrets; federal courts also can rule on criminal trade secret actions based on the Economic Espionage Act of 1996.

The UTSA defines a trade secret as information with actual or potential independent economic value, based on the facts that potential competitors don’t know about it and don’t have the proper means to obtain it; and that “reasonable” efforts are being made to keep that information secret. The information in question can take the form of a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique or process.

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.