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Arlington Heights business law attorneysRecently, employees at the fast food company McDonald’s voiced their concerns regarding sexual harassment by protesting outside restaurants across the country. The employees, both men and women, held signs that said things like “#MeToo” and “Keep your hands off my thighs.” McDonald’s employees participating in the strike claim that too many incidents of sexual harassment have been overlooked or flat-out ignored. It is a problem that many experts say plagues fast food chains. For business owners, the protests are a profound reminder of the importance of creating effective sexual harassment procedures and policy.  

McDonald’s Employees File Complaints Over Unwelcome Advances

Complaints made to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) by McDonald’s employees allege that some supervisors have not only made sexual advances toward subordinates, but also retaliated against those who reported or criticized the harassment. Many employees say they were scared to speak up about harassment they witnessed or experienced themselves for fear of having their work hours cut or being fired. The Civil Rights Act of 1965—the primary federal law that prohibits workplace discrimination such as sexual harassment—not only protects employees from sexual harassment at work, but also guards against employer retaliation. Various federal and local laws establish the rights of “whistleblowers,” or people who file complaints about discrimination or unsafe workplaces.

Fast Food Employees May Be Especially Susceptible to Sexual Harassment

It is no secret that fast food companies often hire younger or less experienced employees. Many people’s first job is working at a restaurant such as McDonald’s. Naïve employees or those with little work experience may be unaware of their rights with regard to sexual harassment and are taken advantage of as a result. Fast food workers living paycheck to paycheck may be afraid to risk losing their only source of income by standing up against harassment.

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Illinois business lawyerFor many business owners and, in fact, people in everyday life, a promise and a handshake mean more than anything that could be captured in a legally binding document. The physical manifestation of a person giving his or her word regarding an agreement or transaction still carries a great deal of psychological weight, even in today’s litigious society. While it would be wonderful to be able to consistently rely on another’s good word in business dealings, the reality is that contracts are often necessary, and, sometimes, one party fails to comply with his or her end of the deal. When that happens, your only option may be a breach of contract claim.

Three Main Elements

All contracts represent some form of a legally enforceable promise. Some, of course, are more complicated than others, but all provide certain rights and responsibilities to each involved party. In the context of business, most contracts address the purchase of items, goods, or services rendered. When the other party fails to comply with the terms of an agreed-upon contract, you may be able to bring a claim for breach of contract before the court. To win your claim, you will be required to show:

  • A Valid Contract Exists: Contracts can be written or oral, although oral contracts may be more difficult to prove. To prove the validity of the contract, you will need to demonstrate that there was an offer, that the offer was voluntarily accepted, and the contract included reasonable consideration for each party;
  • Breach of Terms: You must be able to point to specific parts of the contract that the other party has violated. For example, if the other party was contractually required to deliver a certain product by designated date, once the date has past and the product has not been delivered, the court may determine the missed deadline to be a breach of contract. In general, the breach must have had an effect on the value of the contract to you in order for the claim to be considered; and
  • Breach of Contract Damages: Beyond the fact a provision of the contract was violated, you will also need to prove that you or your business suffered harm due to the breach. Damages generally include lost money, time, and other measurable losses, and, in some cases, the court may also award punitive damages as well. Provisions in the contract that address breaking the contract, including specified penalties or fees, could also be enforced.

While you have every right to enforce a valid contract, you will also want to be sure that you have fulfilled your contractual obligations before moving forward with a claim. You cannot expect a court to hold the other party responsible for breach of contract if you have breached its terms as well.

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Arlington Heights business law attorneyAs the owner of a small or medium-sized business, you probably do not have unlimited capital to do the things you would like to do. After paying your bills, honoring your contracts with suppliers, and covering payroll, you might not have a whole lot left at the end of each month. This is especially true of companies in their fledgling stages. Without extra money, you may find it difficult to think of ways to motivate your staff and to keep your employees working hard. While it is true that workers appreciate financial incentives like bonuses or gift cards, you may be surprised to learn that there are other effective strategies for motivating your staff that cost far less than you would expect.

Be a Leader, Not Just a Boss

Have you have ever been to a restaurant that was obviously short-staffed? It might have been obvious by the frazzled look on your server’s face, not to mention longer-than-usual wait times and other indications. Can you remember what you saw the manager or owner doing? If he or she was cleaning off tables, carrying trays, or mopping up spills in the bathroom, there is a good chance you were seeing a solid leader, not merely the boss. A “boss” might have been content to give directions and tell others how to handle the problem while the “leader” was not afraid to get dirty and help.

The same idea could be applied to your business, and the way in which you lead matters. When you treat your staff as if they are stupid and replaceable, you will probably see that type of work from them. If you assume that your employees are intelligent, focused, and capable of doing their jobs—to the point that you are willing to dig in alongside them and help out—your attitude is likely to spread. Productivity will probably increase as well.

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Arlington Heights business law attorneyWhile most businesses have anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies in place, many still face harassment or discrimination lawsuits because they fail to enforce those policies. More often than not, these are for repeat incidents that have, for one reason or another, gone unresolved. However, a recent report from the Bureau of National Affairs suggests that there are more single incident cases today than there were just mere years ago, and that can mean serious trouble for employers who fall short in providing a safe workplace environment for all.

The Increase in Single Incident Cases

As the notion and importance of equality becomes more widespread, and as judges and juries become more sympathetic to the effects of workplace harassment, more and more are ruling “extremely serious” or “severe” single incidents as viable unlawful harassment cases. Under federal law, this places the employer on the hook for liability, and they may become responsible for damages considered due.

Even cases that are ultimately dismissed have their negative effects on a business. Because they often remain as pending cases longer than the used to, harassment and discrimination lawsuits can drastically impact on employee morale and productivity, and may even cause long-lasting damage to a company’s reputation. Litigation costs associated with discrimination or harassment claims may also prove to be costly, especially if the claim survives past summary judgement. All in all, it is a situation that every employer should try and avoid, if and whenever possible.

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Illinois business law attorneyAs any business owner can attest, owning and operating a small business takes hard work. It is important for a business owner to always be coming up with new and innovative ways to promote the company’s success. If you are a small business owner, you should be trying to think of ways to help your business grow. You should be looking for new opportunities to expand your client base and drive up your profits. While there is not a one-size-fits-all plan for growing a small business, there a few general guidelines that could help you achieve your goals

Play to Your Strengths

Are customers drawn to your business for a particular product or service? Are there patterns regarding your most loyal clients? It may be tempting to try exciting new ways to generate revenue, but it is very important to keep your primary focus on your basic strengths—or “bread-and-butter” if you will. For example, if you run a coffee shop and customers love your custom roasts, you may wish to look for new ways to market your products with strong sales as opposed to eliminating your own brands in favor of new products.

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Illinois State Bar Association DuPage County Bar Association Northwest Suburban Bar Association American Inns of Court DuPage Association of Woman Lawyers National Association of Woman Business Owners Illinois Association Criminal Defense Lawyers DuPage County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association
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