COVID-19 UPDATE from Bellas & Wachowski

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What to do when your business is forced to close due to the CoronaVirus?

Does your business insurance policy cover the lost business due to the pandemic?  Most businesses carry commercial property insurance, which often includes business income coverage provisions.

Recent events have caused our Chicago area business clients to raise questions as to what to do when their business is forced to close by Governor Pritzker’s “Stay-At-Home Order.”    Business owners have some options they might want to consider.

As coronavirus puts workplaces and indeed whole states including Illinois into “shelter in place” mode, employers need to respond quickly and sensitively to a host of health-related issues that no one anticipated dealing with as recently as a few weeks ago.

Emploment Issues in the COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 Pandemic and Employment Issues

These questions apply less directly to the many employees who are able to work from home during the crisis, but those whose employers remain open and who need to be on site to do their jobs will have to strike a delicate balance with their employers between safety, and performance of one’s job duties (and continuing to get paid).

Force Majeure Clauses

SBA Loans to Small Businesses affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

THERE IS FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE AVAILABLE TO SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS.

Practically every small business is feeling the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world.   The restaurant and hospitality industries have been hit the hardest, but every business has seen the adverse effects.

Did someone say force majeure?

Force Majeure Clauses

COVID-19 Pandemic and Force Majeure clauses

According to Black’s Law Dictionary, force majeure is defined as “An event or effect that can be neither anticipated nor controlled.”   It is generally viewed as an unexpected event that prevents someone from doing or completing something that he or she had agreed to do.  The term is usually applied to acts of God (such as floods and hurricanes), riots, strikes and wars.  It is unclear, however, if the term includes an epidemic, such as COVID-19.   That legal term for unforeseen circumstances resulting in non-fulfillment of a contract is likely to be invoked widely this spring and summer as businesses are unable to make good on commitments due to the corona virus crisis.

As Harvey Weinstein rape trial moves forward, has your Chicago area business kept up with the increased awareness of sexual harassment and moved forward with adequate policy and cultural safeguards to ensure that you’re not the next target of the #MeToo movement?

George Bellas Business Attorney

#MeToo Movement is changing business environment protections.  

A survey conducted by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, in conjunction with the software company SAP, found that one-third of U.S. workers and 38% of supervisors say they have changed their office behavior as a result of #MeToo.

Marijuana became legal in Illinois on January 1, yet licensed cannabis dispensaries are generally forced to operate like their street-corner, black-market counterparts in at least one respect: They are cash-only businesses because they have no access to banking services.

Chicago Business Lawyer

Illinois Cannabis Laws create new issues

That’s because federal law still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, and classifies marijuana businesses as illegal. And since banking is regulated by federal law, banks technically could be subject to charges like aiding and abetting, or money laundering, should they make loans, provide credit or otherwise service these businesses.

Borrowing a line from Leynrd Skynrd’s song, three quick steps to the doorway of business organization will get you into today’s preferred format for your business – a limited liability company (“LLC”).    So here are the three quick steps:

  1. Draft and file the Illinois Articles of Organization.  This is a required form offered by the Illinois Secretary of State and gives the State all of the required details for your LLC.  This is required in every state.  Although the questions seem simple, each one can have some serious ramifications for your business.    Even the choice of a Registered Agent is one that should be considered with care.
  2. Every LLC needs an Operating Agreement.  The is an important document as it relates to the ownership, management and taxation of the business.

If you’ve watched any of the Democratic presidential debates, you might have heard candidate and entrepreneur Andrew Yang – you know, the guy with the $1,000 per month guaranteed income plan – talk about something called the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.”   This is a recognition that technology is imploding and changing everything about our lives.

4th-Industrial-Revolution-300x225In describing the ways social media and technology have redefined communication, in 2009 journalist Graeme Wood said that  “Change has never happened this fast before, and it will never be this slow again.”  

Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, coined the phrase “fourth industrial revolution” in his 2016 best seller.  This is techie-speak for disruptive technologies and trends like robotics, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and the Internet of Things – i.e. everyday devices like doorbells and thermostats that you can control remotely – that are changing how we live and work.  This Fourth Industrial Revolution is bringing together digital, physical and biological systems.  It will open up our minds to all kinds of new things:  Mobile supercomputing; Artificially-intelligent robots; Self-driving cars; Neuro-technological brain enhancements; Genetic editing.  We can see the evidence of these revolutionary changes all around us – and it’s happening faster and faster.

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Protecting Chicago Area Business Owners.

The threshold for white-collar employees to be classifiable as “exempt” rose about 50% to $684 per week (about $35,568 per year) on January 1, 2020. Employers will need to make adjustments to ensure they’re compliant with this updated rule, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, announced on September 24 by the U.S. Department of Labor.  By “exempt” I am referring to employees who do not qualify for overtime pay.

The Illinois Freedom to Work Act, which prevents non-governmental employers from requiring that low-wage employees enter into non-compete agreements, has begun to impact case law in the past three years since it was enacted. Employers would be wise to take note.

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Chicago Business Lawyers

The act, which defines “low-wage employees” as those earning the greater of $13 per hour, or the federal, state or local minimum wage, pushes back against employers who insert such agreements into new employee packets as a matter of course.