Employment & Labor

On May 17 , 2019, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed legislation that lifted restrictions for workers suffering from occupational diseases resulting from exposure to toxic substances such as mesothelioma and lung cancer resulting from asbestos exposure for filing civil actions against their former employers. Supported primarily by the plaintiffs’ attorney trial bar, Public Act 101-0006 changes the provisions of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act and the Illinois Workers’ Occupational Disease Act that had imposed a 25 year statute of repose for occupational injury and a setting 3 year statute of limitations for filing such claims. Under the new Act, while maintaining…
Synopsis: Illinois’ Legal System Continues to Get More Judicial “Hell-Hole-y.” Editor’s comment: The American Tort Reform Association puts out a Rotten Tomatoes-type ranking of U.S. litigation systems they call Judicial “Hell-Holes.” Their goal is to let you, me and your friends know what things in our courts start to smell of limburger cheese. In my view, what just happened to our State stinks to high heaven. Now we have to wait and see what our wacky Illinois courts do with this new and shocking concept. Please also remember the terms in this legislation like “latent injury” and “statutes of repose”…
May 20, 2019 by Leave a Comment This is a situation I see all the time. Let’s say you are at a university. A student goes to disability services, gets an accommodation plan, even gives it to the teacher. The teacher resists. The student may or may not try to fix it until later in the semester figuring that something will develop. Or, I have also seen this, disability services doesn’t have much influence at another one of the University’s schools. That is, disability services focuses on undergraduate programs but the professional schools do their own things regardless…
Law aims to close legal loopholes that hide harassment concerns from public view. In the past few weeks, Illinois Legislators have been working feverishly to advance SB1829, the Workplace Transparency Act. In an already busy legislative session filled with worker-friendly initiatives, the bill has already passed the Senate and is advancing rapidly through the House, picking up scores of sponsors along the way. The bill would: Mandate annual sexual harassment training and prescribe the content for such training. Extend the IHRA’s protections against harassment to independent contractors. Grant victims of sexual harassment up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for…
The Missouri General Assembly recently passed legislation to expand the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp in Missouri.  Senate Bill 133, passed on May 15, 2019, has been sent to Governor Parson’s desk for his signing. Before we discuss the 2019 legislation, a brief overview of Missouri’s current legal landscape with respect to industrial hemp would be helpful. In 2018, the Missouri legislature passed and the governor signed HB 2034 to provide a legal framework for the re-introduction of industrial hemp to Missouri. Among other things, HB 2034 decriminalized industrial hemp. In other words, industrial hemp (defined as Cannabis sativa…
Americans talk about being “tethered” to their smartphones mostly from the standpoint of the time suck that’s involved and the tendency to miss what’s going on around us when we’re supposed to be working, spending time with family or friends, or (let’s hope not) driving down the highway.  It’s hard to resist the offerings on your smartphone which now is millions times more powerful than NASA’s computers from the 1960’s. But one result of all that tethering – whether we’re texting, streaming music, getting directions from our GPS, or posting on social media – is that our smartphone is…
The Vacationing Lawyer. In concept, it would stir envy for the practitioner contrarian enough to use it as an autobiography title. In practice, it’s an oxymoron. I’m just back from a long-planned 10-day African getaway, and rather than actually getting away, it sure felt like work stowed away. I was expecting more from the international customs officials, but without a ticket or even an invitation, work was waved right through. It’s old hat by now to complain about ubiquitous cellphones and tablets, borderless email and texting, and the long reach of the office. Per bestselling author Curt Steinhorst, we check…
Today’s blog entry discusses the case that came down from the United States Supreme Court on May 13, 2019, discussing interstate sovereign immunity. The case is Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt. We have blogged on sovereign immunity before, such as here. It is an incredibly complicated area of the law, but this case isn’t that difficult compared to what we have blogged on before. As usual, the blog entry is divided into categories and they are: facts; majority opinion; dissenting opinion; and takeaways. The reader is free to focus on any or all of the categories.…
Synopsis: What to Do When the Unforeseen Happens—Incident Investigation.   Editor’s comment: Please note I am very reluctant to use the word “accident.” All my friends and scholars in the National and Local Safety Councils have convinced me to use the term “incident” to avoid anyone implying an “accident” means compensability. The word “incident” works much better—Please consider changing your “accident investigation” forms to reflect this concept.   Either way, when a catastrophic incident occurs, prompt and efficient collection of fresh evidence is critical to minimizing your liability exposure. If you don’t get evidence in 24 hours, it will rapidly…
Bill Would Expand Law To Cover Virtually All Illinois Employers By the end of this week, there’s a very good chance that the Illinois Legislature will place on Governor Pritzker’s desk for his signature HB0252 – a bill that would eliminate the minimum employee threshold for anti-discrimination prohibitions in the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA). This will make virtually any employer with as few as one employee subject to all anti-discrimination prohibitions in the IHRA. Currently, companies with less than fifteen employees are subject only to anti-discrimination prohibitions covering sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination and disability discrimination. But, if a company…
This Bloomberg article is illustrative of the problems of individual arbitration in class action employment cases for employers.  Although employers have hailed recent pro-arbitration rulings as a victory, there is always a chance that employees will actually file those arbitration in large numbers. As described in the Bloomberg article, there are 60,000 pending Uber arbitration filings which could cost $600,000,000 to defend according to Bloomberg.   I actually think that number is low:  the employer’s arbitration fees typically are more than $10,000 each–often approaching $25,000 at a minimum for a simply arbitration. While one may assume Uber can afford it:  imagine…
When litigating Illinois non-compete and restrictive covenant disputes, my experience is that the biggest factor is not the law or even the facts, but instead the assigned judge.  This is unfortunate because there is a great deal of unpredictability.  There is so much discretion afforded to a judge in determining the enforceability of non-compete agreement, including whether to enter preliminary relief (i.e, a preliminary injunction or a temporary restraining order).  This uncertainty is not fair for employees (who want to know if they can stay or take a new job) or employers (who want to know that their agreements will…
Synopsis: Don’t Be Fooled When Settling Medical Exposure in Illinois Workers’ Comp.   Editor’s comment: There are a number of traps and pitfalls in handling/managing IL WC claims. I consider the worst to be   Amputations; Death claims Medical settlements.   If you have questions or concerns about amputation or death claims in IL WC, send me a reply and I can help, I promise. I don’t charge for routine advice.   On medical settlements, I recently had several plaintiff/petitioner lawyers send settlement contracts or request settlement contracts that settled PPD but sought this language to settle 8a or medical rights: “Respondent…
On May 2, 2019 the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) issued new guidelines for businesses seeking to obtain registrations for cannabis-related marks.  Any company that is in –  or wants to be in – the CBD, hemp or medical marijuana business and is looking for maximum brand protection, needs to understand the new guidelines. Here are the rules in a nutshell. A.  For any application to register a mark for use with a product derived from “marijuana” (as opposed to legal hemp), the USPTO will refuse the registration.  This includes products such as CBD. B. However, the same prohibition…
Smoking Gun Today’s blog entry discusses two cases, both dealing with smoking guns (hence, the cannon above). One is from the Sixth Circuit, Baum v. Metro Restoration Services, Inc., Decided on April 11, 2019. The other is EEOC v. Crain Automotive Holdings LLC from the Eastern District of Arkansas, also decided on April 11, 2019. As usual, the blog entry is divided into categories, and they are: Crain’s facts; Crain’s reasoning; Crain’s takeaways; Baum’s facts; Baum’s reasoning; and Baum takeaways. Of course, the reader is free to focus on any or all of the categories. I Crain Facts Taken…