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Arlington Heights business law attorneysThe lack of gender diversity in business is not a new issue, nor is the lack of diversity in the boardroom, and it is difficult exactly why. A Pew Research Center survey indicates that most Americans do believe that women are equally qualified as corporate and political leaders, but four out of 10 respondents also feel that women have to do more to prove themselves than their male counterparts. After a recent study from the Peterson Institute for International Economics, companies may want to consider reframing how they see gender equality in the workplace.

Increased Female Management Representation and Profit Margins

After examining nearly 22,000 publicly traded companies in 91 countries, researchers found that around 40 percent of all companies had no female board members, more than 50 percent had no female executives, and fewer than five percent had a female CEO. Statistics in the United States were even more concerning, with only 12 percent of all board seats and 16 percent of executive seats going to female employees. Yet, interestingly enough, a deeper look indicated that increased female leadership may produce bigger profit margins.

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Illinois business law attorneysIf you own a company that relies on a team of employees to serve your customers and achieve your goals, recruitment and hiring are very important to your business. You need the best possible team that you can assemble, and it can be challenging to make good hiring decisions after spending just a few minutes with each candidate.

The interview is a critical part of the hiring process, and a good interviewer can learn a great deal about a prospect in a very short amount of time. It is reasonable, of course, to ask a candidate how he or she will approach the job and about the qualifications he or she brings to the table. There are, however, some questions you never ask and topics that must be avoided so that you do not put your company at risk for a claim of employment discrimination. Such topics include:

  • Age;
  • Race or ethnicity;
  • Sex, gender, or gender identity;
  • National origin;
  • Religion;
  • Marital or family status, including pregnancy; and
  • Disability.

State and federal laws prohibit employers from making hiring decisions because of certain protected characteristics. Bringing up any these subjects creates the impression that the candidate’s answers will affect your hiring decision.

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Illinois business law attorneysMost companies do everything in their power to abide by the rules. Sadly, there are a select few companies that simply refuse to comply with local, state, or federal regulations. Some businesses cut corners to save time and money, while others fail to provide a safe work environment or refuse to go the extra mile to ensure their products or services are safe for consumption. All these situations put others at risk, which is why the state of Illinois encourages internal reporting from employees—an act that is known as “whistleblowing.”

What Is a Whistleblower?

“Whistleblowers” are employees that have reported local, state, or federal violations, or hazards that pertain to public or employee health and safety. Some may unknowingly participate in a wrongful act and then report it. Others may recognize the violation and refuse to participate in an action that they feel violates health and safety standards or local, state, or federal laws. In either case, those who make such reports are protected by the state under the Illinois Whistleblower Act (740 ILCS 174).  

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Arlington Heights business law attorneyOver the last several years, a number of retailers have announced and begun executing plans to close a substantial number of stores. Some have been struggling for quite some time, such as JC Penney, Sears,  and Toys R Us, while others—including Macy’s—have surprised many consumers with their plans to shutter dozens of locations.

Unfortunately, many of these retailers are “anchor stores” in shopping malls across the country. As anchor stores, they once served as the most stable tenants of a shopping center, with a customer base that drove the bulk of the mall’s traffic. The struggles of such stores have translated into big problems for the shopping centers themselves, and while e-commerce is part of the issue, it is not the only reason that malls are hurting nationwide.

Reason #1: Online Shopping Is Here to Stay

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Arlington Heights business law attorneyThe days are finally starting to get a little warmer in chilly Chicago which can only mean one thing: summer is approaching. For many school-age children, this means a long break from homework and early bedtimes. For some high school and college students, the end of the school year signals the beginning of their summer job search. While summer jobs are less popular than they were 30 years ago, many teenagers will be looking for temporary or seasonal jobs this summer. Studies show that about 35 percent of those aged 16 to 19 will be searching for seasonal work during this year’s break from school. For small business owners, this is a great way to hire extra help while also investing in a young person’s future.

Start Looking for Candidates Now

Although the end of the school year is still a few weeks away for most students, the time for business owners to start recruiting summer help is now. It can be tricky to find the right employee for your business. You need to find someone who is able to learn the job quickly, is reliable and dependable, and is willing to be hired on only a temporary basis. These constraints significantly narrow the pool of possible candidates. Expect the hiring  process to take several weeks at least.

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Illinois business law attorneyAfter the Parkland school shooting in Florida last month, many people were shocked and saddened. The shooting, which left 17 students and faculty members dead, has reignited the debate over gun laws in the United States – especially the controversy regarding semi-automatic weapons and accessories like bump stocks. Several corporations have changed their business practices in order to be consistent with their political and social beliefs.

Social Risk Should Be a Consideration for All Businesses

There are many complex factors that a business owner must be worried about. In addition to managing employees, expenses, income, and marketing strategies, businesses now must consider “social risk” when making business decisions. Social media allows people to share information instantaneously. A company who makes an offensive “tweet” on Twitter can expect that tweet to be shared thousands of times within hours. Businesses, whether they like it or not, have been pulled into the political realm. Everything a business does or says is noticed by consumers.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_small-business-red-tape-regulations.jpgBeing a small business owner is unlike any job in the world. Challenges like finding the starting funds for a business, hiring good employees, marketing your business, and tax compliance are difficult obstacles to overcome. One such obstacle, which according to some is stifling small businesses across the U.S, is the burden of government regulations. The Code of Federal Regulations has grown to an astounding 175,000 pages. Many of these regulations can become quite problematic for small business owners.

Illegal Cookies Could Land Business Owner in Jail

One example of this regulatory burden has been making life difficult for a small bed and breakfast in Wisconsin. The owner of the B&B serves cookies and other baked treats for her guests. She takes pride in her work, but selling the baked goods could result in the owner being imprisoned for up to six months. There is a rule in Wisconsin law which mandates that if she wants to sell them, her baked goods must come from a commercial kitchen. So, if this B&B owner wishes to sell her cookies, she must find a way to finance an entire commercial kitchen. The cost of installing a kitchen of that magnitude would cost the owner an estimated $50,000.

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Illinois business law attorneysFor many business owners, firing an employee is something they hope they will not have to do. Unfortunately, letting employees go is just as much a part of being a business owner as hiring employees is. When an employer fires an employee, he or she must be careful to avoid creating an opportunity for the employee to sue. Employers must make certain that the termination was justified, legitimate, and handled within the law. There is no way to completely eliminate the risk of being sued, but avoiding these common mistakes can help business owners avoid litigation.

Keeping Inadequate Records

Sometimes, employers become overwhelmed with the demanding task of running a business, and they allow some duties to slip. One of these often overlooked responsibilities is record-keeping. For example, employers have the responsibility to track employee hours worked. When keeping track of the hours worked by employees is based on the “honor system” or is inadequately managed, employees can claim that they were not paid for the actual hours they worked.

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Arlington Heights business law attorneysWhen you own and operate a business, it is crucial to remain in full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. You are responsible for meeting government standards for licensing and certification, as well as safety and fire codes and a myriad of other requirements. One of the most controversial requirements—at least in recent years—has been compensation. If you employ a staff, it is your responsibility to pay them in accordance with federal, state, and local wage laws. Failing to do so could result in serious penalties, as one Chicago restaurant recently discovered.

Issues With “Training Rate”

The owner of popular Italian eatery Fabulous Freddies is on the proverbial hot seat following an investigation by the United States Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division. The investigation found that the restaurant and its owner failed to comply with the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA). According to several news reports, investigators from the Department of Labor found that Fabulous Freddies paid certain non-tipped workers a “training [pay] rate” of just $3.75 per hour—less than half of the $8.25 minimum wage in Illinois and still far below the $7.25 federal minimum wage.

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Arlington Heights business law attorneysThere are only a few short weeks before Christmas, and people everywhere are scrambling to buy gifts. This means that many retail companies have got to find a way to meet significantly-increased demand. Many stores satisfy this demand by hiring additional staff for the holiday season, but some businesses struggle to find and hire good temporary workers. There are some steps you can take that may make the recruitment and hiring process more efficient as the winter holidays draw near.

Do Not Wait to Hire Seasonal Workers

By the month of December, most retail stores are already deep into the hiring process for seasonal employees. It is important for businesses to be proactive and not wait until the last minute to hire this additional help. Ideally, businesses would start the recruitment process weeks or even months before the holiday shopping season begins. This allows employers to process applications and interview candidates long before the demand increases.

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Arlington Heights business law attorneyWhen you own business that operates in a highly competitive industry, it is understandable that you would want to protect your investments, including your time, money, and efforts. If you rely on proprietary systems or recipes, you may require your employees to sign non-disclosure agreements which contractually forbids them from sharing your secrets. Similarly, if you employ a team of skilled employees, you may want to protect that investment as well by using non-compete agreements. According to the law in Illinois, non-competes may be an option, but only if your employees’ wages also represent how much you value your workers.

New Limitations

The Illinois Freedom to Work Act was signed by Governor Bruce Rauner last August and went into effect on January 1, 2017. The Act prohibits the use of non-compete agreements for employees who make less than $13 per hour. The measure was prompted, in large part, by complaints from employees of the sandwich chain Jimmy Johns. Workers at the Illinois-based chain were routinely required to sign non-compete agreements that prevented them from working for another sub shop during their employment with Jimmy Johns—and two more years after that!

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Arlington Heights business law attorneyIn today’s American economy, there is a dramatic difference between unemployment and underemployment. Unemployment, generally speaking, is tracked by government watchdog groups as an indicator of economic growth and usually takes into account those who are not currently working but are looking for jobs. Underemployment, by comparison, is much more difficult to quantify and refers to those who may be working but who are still having trouble making ends meet.

Temporary workers—also known as temps or day laborers—are often considered to be among the underemployed. On any given day, they may have jobs, but those jobs are not guaranteed and can quickly disappear. In an effort to help protect the rights of temp workers, Illinois lawmakers recently passed a measure that requires temp agencies to be more forthcoming about the type of work a temp will be doing and more aggressive about placing temps in permanent positions.

The Role of Temp Agencies

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Illinois business law attorneyWhen you own a small or medium-sized business, you do not always have the money to do all of the things you want to do. Between payroll, utilities, taxes, and honoring contracts with vendors and suppliers, you may not have very much left over—especially if you are a newer company. This can create challenges if you are looking for ways to keep your staff motivated, as you may think that workers respond best to bonuses, gift cards, and other financial incentives. It may come as a surprise to learn that other motivational strategies may be just as effective as money—if not more so—in increasing your employees’ productivity.

Lead From the Front

A popular image that is often shared among managers and team leaders depicts two conflicting leadership styles. The top half of the image shows a “boss” sitting at his desk atop a heavy load directing a team of unhappy people as they drag the load. The bottom half shows the same team and the same load, but this time, the “leader” is at the front of the team, encouraging them and pulling with them. The team is happier and the work is being done more efficiently.

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Illinois business law attorneyIn recent months, at least seven states—including Illinois—have been vying for the attention of Foxconn, a Taiwan-based technology company looking for a new foothold on American soil. Illinois lawmakers and industry leaders believed that landing a Foxconn plant could have been a major boost to the state’s economy and would have created thousands of new jobs.

This week, however, an announcement by Foxconn dashed the hopes of Illinoisans by confirming that it plans to build a 20-million square foot facility in Wisconsin. The new plant will produce LCD panel screens and is expected to employ 3,000 workers when it opens. The company also said that its Wisconsin plant could eventually employ as many as 13,000 as it continues to invest in the region.

A Questionable History

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Arlington Heights business law attorney, employee handbook, employee policies, business law compliance, company policiesClearly outlining your company’s policies, standards, and expectations is one of the most effective things you can do as a business owner to create mutually beneficial relationships between you, the owner, and your employees.

Establishing thorough employee policies will not only help you clarify operational standards with your staff, it will also help reduce your chances of running into problems with various business law compliance issues.

Employee Handbook Necessities

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Arlington Heights business law attorney, business brandingBecoming a business owner is an overwhelming prospect, especially when it comes time to acquaint yourself with the myriad of business laws for which you will be held accountable as you commence your new role. Branding in particular will be an imperative foundation for your marketing efforts, and it all begins with one critical task: selecting a business name.

Doing Business As (DBA)

Whether you are an existing owner looking to start another side business or are embarking on a brand new business venture for the first time, it is important to be aware of the requirement to legally register your business name with the proper authorities to ensure you remain compliant with the law. Filing your “Doing Business As” name (also called your DBA) is the process of officially registering your chosen business name. This name must be different from your real, personal name, and will be required on a number of government forms and applications, such as your employer tax ID application and license paperwork.

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Arlington Heights business law attorney, privacy law complianceAs an employer, you wear many hats when it comes to the operation of your business. Whether you own the business directly or work in partnership with the owners to ensure the production runs smoothly and efficiently to guarantee its success, complying with various privacy business laws is extremely important. It is easy to overlook certain requirements, especially when you are unfamiliar with or unclear on a particular law.

The Purpose of Privacy Law in the Business Realm

Simply put, the purpose of privacy laws is to ensure the protection of sensitive personal information, such as social security numbers, credit card information, and other financial data. The information you gather from your employees can potentially place them at risk for identity theft, harassment from creditors and salesmen, and a number of other inconveniences. 

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Maintaining a successful business begins with the establishment of an operation that abides by the proper state laws and regulations from the get-go. All it takes is one misstep with hiring compliance, license and permits, or tax filing, and your entire business can end up in hot water.

Whether you are a new business owner or have owned a business for some time, it is important to take inventory of your current practices to ensure you are complying with applicable business laws and maintaining an efficient, legal operation. Consider the following examples of areas every business owner must address in order to achieve long-term success.

License and Permit Requirements — There are a number of businesses that require federal licensing, such as those involved with activities that are somehow regulated by a federal agency. These business categories can include everything from commercial transportation and agriculture to the sale of alcohol or firearms. Even if your business is not related to anything regulated by the federal government, virtually every business needs to have a permit or license of some sort. The type of permits required for your company’s operation will depend entirely on your state’s rules, the location of your business, and any additional government rules that apply.

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paid sick leave in Chicago, Arlington Heights business lawyersBusinesses in the Chicago area have had to power through many changes over the last couple of years. A newly passed city ordinance, which will require that most employers allow their employees to earn paid sick leave, has now been added to that list of changes. The following information can help you understand the legal framework and minimum requirements.

Earned Sick Pay Ordinance Employer Requirements

The ordinance, which goes into effect on July 1, 2017, requires that all Chicago employers provide at least some sort of earned sick pay program to their employees. At a minimum, workers should be able accrue five sick days per year at a rate of one earned hour per 40 hours worked, which can be used once they have completed a six-month probationary period with the company. Employees can "cash in" this time if they are ill, need to care for a sick child or elderly parent, or in the event of a domestic violence situation. If the time goes unused, at least 2.5 of the hours can be rolled over into the next year for their use.

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new employee requirements, Arlington Heights employment law attorneyWhether you are a natural-born entrepreneur and are finally getting your first business off the ground or simply want to try your hand at a business venture you have been plotting for some time, preparation begins long before you open your doors for business. Existing business owners and new employers alike must comply with a number of state and federal regulations when hiring new employees to ensure they are operating their business legally.

Hiring Compliance

New employers looking to bring new hires on board are especially susceptible to making errors, often because they are misinformed or are unclear on the proper legal requirements. Sadly, simple mistakes can lead to costly lawsuits, which is why it is so important that you follow all state and federal regulations when you decide to go into business.

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