Articles Tagged with Chicago Business Litigation Lawyer

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Employee or Freelancer?

Is a person who works for your business financially dependent on you, or can they potentially independently profit based on their skill set? Will they be part of your company indefinitely? Do they perform a central, daily, integral role? Do you dictate when, where and how they work? Do you limit their ability to work for others? Can the person apply what they do to other endeavors, widening their market reach and leading to other revenue streams?

Small businesses and other employers will need ask themselves this set of questions and consider the “totality of the circumstances” in determining whether to classify people who work for them as employees or independent contractors, in a rule change published by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division on January 10, set to take effect March 11.

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Transit Benefits Required for Illinois Employers

Another wrinkle for employers in the Chicago area.

Businesses located in the six-county Chicago area near public transit routes operated by the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) that have at least 50 employees will be required as of Jan. 1, 2024, to provide their full-time employees with pre-tax public transit benefits.

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Long-Term Temps to be Paid Like Employees

Both Illinois employers that contract with temporary labor service agencies, and those agencies themselves that do business in the state, should review staffing contracts and ensure compliance with relevant policies and procedures under amendments to the Illinois Day and Temporary Labor Services Act signed by Governor J.B. Pritzker, which took effect immediately.

The amendments to HB 2862 hold that temporary workers assigned to a third-party client for more than 90 days are entitled to wages and benefits—or the cash equivalent of benefits—equivalent to the lowest-paid employee at that client who performs the “same or substantially similar” work. If no such person exists, temp workers must be paid the same as the lowest-paid employee with the closest seniority level to the temp.

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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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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.”

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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Buyer of Nontraditional Legal Services, Beware

All kinds of business forms are offered online, and many of them for free.  Stand-alone paralegal services are offering various sorts of assistance to small businesses for significantly less than lawyers generally charge.  Accounting and bookkeeping services that organize businesses are increasingly positioning themselves as trusted enterprise advisers in ways that potentially can spill over into law-related issues.  And the cost of litigation continues to grow.

It’s thus understandable at some level that small business owners, who operate on modest margins in many cases, would ponder how much they need to continue to rely on their traditional partners in the legal world for the same level of services they typically have in the past and look to the web find alternatives to the services of a lawyer.

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How Do Family Businesses Survive Transition?

The Cornell University Smith Family Business Initiative says that more than three-quarters (77%) of small businesses rest on significant family involvement. Family Enterprise USA has counted 5.5 million family businesses in the U.S., finding that they contribute 57% of the U.S. GDP, employ 63% of workers and create 78% of all new jobs. And not all are small businesses: Businessweek.com has reported that 35% of Fortune 500 companies are family-controlled.

But the statistics on how often family businesses don’t sustain themselves over time—whether due to squabbling or for other reasons—paint a stark picture. According to Business Week, 40% of family-owned businesses reach the second generation, 13% get to a third and just 3% are passed down to a fourth generation or beyond.  And familybusinesscenter.com calculates the average life span as 24 years.

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Texts can be held against you in court.

Alex Jones lawyers (perhaps inadvertently) turned 2-years of texts to the lawyers for the Sandy Hook families. What would be the repercussions for the disclosure if the trial were in Illinois?

The parents of a 6-year-old child that was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting had requested in discovery that Alex Jones turn over all the emails that related to shooting. Jones previously testified that he had searched his phone for texts about the Sandy Hook School shooting and found none, but Jones’s lawyers proved otherwise.

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The City of Chicago’s newly amended sexual harassment ordinance, which takes effect July 1, will bring an enhanced definition of the term, new written policy and notice requirements, new training requirements for employers, additional safety measures, a longer statute of limitations—and heftier penalties for those found guilty.

Every Chicago business must comply with these new laws.   And the new laws should be words-to-the-wise to all Illinois Businesses in ensuring compliance with state law, which we’ve detailed in this earlier post.

The City’s definition of sexual harassment starts with the notion that people of all gender identities can be victims.  Among the acts that fall within the definition are unwelcome sexual advances or sexual conduct, requests for sexual favors or conduct of a sexual nature, and sexual misconduct—an addition to the definition—that involves coercion, abuse of authority or misuse of the alleged accused’s employment position.