March 2019

2021 Midwest Road, Suite 200, Oak Brook, IL 60523

Month: March 2019

A few weeks ago, a nice woman scheduled a consultation with me and said, surprised, 'I had no idea I could get all of this out of just a consultation!' (She came to me, of course, after knowing how to properly look for a lawyer). ? In my many years of practicing law, it's becoming more clear to me that many people do not understand what a consultation is and all that they can get out of one.

We tend to associate consultations with personal injury lawyers as they tend to typically advertise (a lot) FREE consultations. But did you know that each type of lawyer has a different purpose for their consultations? Personal injury attorneys tend to assess whethe a person has a valid case. After the consultation, there isn't much information or value the attorney can provide after the consultation is over and the attorneys determine that the person does not have a good case. This is simply due to the nature of the claim, not because of any problem with the lawyers themselves.

Other attorneys, like myself, actually provide actionable advice to clients whether they end up hiring me or not. Like in this lovely lady's situation, she needed to know whether her non-compete was enforceable so she could work for a nearby employer. She did not realize she could simply schedule a consultation to ask me some questions with zero intent on hiring me for more services. What did she get out ...

Is Jussie Smollett Guilty?

I don't practice criminal law but I can't help but to dabble in some current news. Since I also live near Chicago, this has become sort of local news to me as well.

The Curious Case of Jussie Smollett

On March 14, 2019, 'Empire' act Jussie Smollett pleaded 'not guilty' on charges that he staged a hate-crime attack against himself in Cook County, Chicago, Illinois. In case you are not aware, Smollett, who is black and gay, told police that he was attacked by two men as he walked to his Streeterville apartment around 2 a.m. that morning. He claimed that his assailants hurled racist and homophobic attacks at home, punched him, and wrapped a noose around his neck. After the attackers, who are brothers, were caught and were in custody for 48 hours, they told police that Smollett had paid them $3,500 to carry out the attack as a hoax in order to raise Smollett's street cred.

A grand jury has indicted Smoll ett for various counts of disorderly conduct regarding his false statements to detectives. So what is disorderly conduct? The Illinois statute 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 26-1 et. seq. lays out several categories of disorderly conduct but the most relevant one is probably:

Transmits or causes to be transmitted in any manner to any peace officer, public officer or public employee a report to the effect that an offense will be committed, is being committed, or has been committed, knowing at the
I get a lot of calls for consultations asking me if the employee can sue their employer for firing them. The employee will cite that it was 'unfair', that the employer 'is mean' or just likes other employees more. However, employers can usually fire employees as they see fit. It does not have to be fair. The employer can be completely unreasonable and that's perfectly legal.

Types of Wrongful Termination

The good news is that there are laws that protect employees from claims of 'wrong termination' and when it is absolutely NOT legal for an employer to fire an employee. Wrongful termination claims are:

  • Illegal discrimination. This is when an employee is fired for her race, age, color, genetic information, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, family status, disability, and sometimes veteran status (if an employer has 15 or more employees). Those are the federal protected classes that are universal for all states. Some states and even cities have additional protected classes.
  • When employee asked to commit an illegal act. If an employee refuses to comply with orders to commit an illegal act and is fired for doing so, this is wrongful termination. Illegal acts include fraud, violating industry-specific laws and codes, and violating other employees' rights such as refusing to pay for overtime.
  • Whistleblowing. Whistleblowing is when an employee witnesses an employer engaging in illegal acts and reports the employer to the government agency. The employer then fires or otherwise retaliates (such as demoting) against

How to Find the Right Lawyer

You may be in a situation where you are asking yourself 'man, I think I may need a lawyer for this,' whether you are starting up a new business and need some contracts, need advice on how to organize your business, or you think you are about to get into a legal battle with a former business partner. But before you start looking for attorneys, it's good to know what you are looking for and how to evaluate an attorney prior to hiring. I'm going to first lay out how to find look for an attorney then the questions you can ask when speaking to an attorney:

How to Search for an Attorney

  1. Start with your networks. If you've had friends or family who had a similar legal issue, ask them first. It's a good way to get some names of lawyers who have been tried and you can gauge whether an attorney will handle your case well.
  2. Call Your Local Bar Association. Another way to get a list of attorneys is if you simply go to a search engine and type '[your county] bar association.' Many bar associations have a list of vetted attorneys that they refer cases to. The bar association can also guide you to the type of attorney you may need.
  3. Search online. Of course it's 2019 and you can easily get on the internet and search away. There are some drawbacks to this method because 1) you are not sure
Introducing New Reimbursement Laws for Employees in Illinois

Are you an employer who requires her employees to buy their own uniforms? Or are you an employee who uses his personal cell phone for work purposes? Well, as of January 1, 2019, that all changes. Illinois amended the Illinois Wage Payment and Employment Act to now require that employers 'reimburse an employee for all necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee within the employee's scope of employment and directly related to services performed for the employer.' See 820 ILCS 115/9.5. 'Necessary expenditures' means 'all reasonable expenditures or losses required of the employee in the discharge of employment duties and that inure to the primary benefit of the employer.'

An employer is not responsible for reimbursing the following:
  • an employee's negligence;
  • normal wear; or
  • theft, unless the theft was a result of the employer's negligence

Although the statute now requires reimbursement for these expenses, I would advise my clients to write up a reimbursement policy as it would help protect them in the event an employee tries to accuse the employer of not reimbursing expenses. A written policy could also help fill in the gaps of the statute because, unfortunately, this amendment leaves some questions unanswered. For example, how does an employer 'authorize' and expense? What if an item incurs both personal and professional cost (such as cell phone or laptop?). Also, the statute prohibits employees from taking action against the employer if the employee did ...