Friday, December 20, 2013

221 New Laws Take Effect on January 1st

HERE is a link to a chart that lists all 221 new laws that will take effect in Illinois on January 1st.  These are some of my favorites:

  • HB 3038 - Parents/guardians cannot be sued for eavesdropping on electronic communications of minors in their care. (Seriously? Minors could sue for that before?)
  • HB 2517 - Allows Veterinarians to dispense drugs in emergency situations. (Sweet! Horse pain-killers!)
  • HB 2754 - Creates National Wild Turkey Federation license plates, with licensing fees to be paid into the National Wild Turkey Federation Fund. (The bird or the bourbon?)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Track Down Your Unclaimed Money

Although I did not win the Mega Millions, I'm still a big winner this week. I just came across a website that links to every state's unclaimed property departments. Every state has a process by which "abandoned" property (usually money) is turned over to the government after a set period of time. The government then holds the funds until the rightful owner files a claim. If they can verify your identity, they will release your money. 

I decided to search for my own name just out of curiosity. It turns out that I have "<$10" (less than ten bucks) being held by the Illinois Treasurer. It was apparently from an old PayPal account that I had. I must have started a second PayPal account and forgot about the first one, or something...I'm still not sure.  

Anyway, here is the website: You should probably search for your name under every state in which you have ever lived. You might hit the big one. And if you do, just remember that my fee is one-third. We're on the honor system here. Good luck!!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Illinois Business Owners: The "Good" Employee and Non-Compete Agreements

A Will County, Illinois business owner has built a profitable business that provides recycling services and data protection services for over 800 businesses in Cook County, Will County, Kane County, Kendall County and DuPage County.  This Illinois business has built its excellent  reputation on quality and timely customer service provided by its sale representatives who are encouraged to build strong business relationships with its customers.  During the early years of the business, the Illinois business owner decided to require all of his employees to sign non-compete agreements to avoid competing with an employee leaving the company and starting a similar business.

The Illinois business owner has developed and trained personally all of its sale representatives and technicians. As with all companies, there are always a few employees that go above and beyond to ensure that the business runs smoothly and efficiently. One such employee has been with the Illinois business from the beginning  and has complete access to all of the confidential customer records and pricing models. This employee is always the first to arrive at work and the last to leave.  The employee provide services to customers on weekends, holidays, and on vacation. This employee has very strong relationships with over half of the customers of the Illinois business.

The "good" employee abruptly decides to resign.  The Illinois business owner is surprised by the employee's action and even more surprised when several customers decide not to renew their contracts with the Illinois business.  Curiously, all of the businesses that did not renew their contracts were serviced by the employee who resigned.

The Illinois business owner finally realizes that the departing employee has started a competing business. The Illinois business owner contacts his former employee and reminds him about the signed non-compete agreement. The non-compete agreement does not allow the employee to compete with the Illinois business owner for five years and within 50 miles of its Will County business location.

Finally, the Illinois business owner is forced to file a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. The employee's attorney files a declaratory judgment action claiming that the  non-compete agreement is not enforceable.   The Illinois business owner is surprised that the court finds that the non-compete agreement is unenforceable because the geographical and time restraints were unreasonable despite the fact that the Illinois business owner had a legitimate business interest in the confidential customer lists and pricing models.

The takeaway is that whether a non-compete agreement is enforceable in Illinois primarily depends upon the "totality of the circumstances" of each individual case. Illinois business owners may wish to obtain carefully drafted non-compete agreements to avoid unnecessary uncertainty as to whether the agreement will be enforced.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Removing Your Mugshot From the Internet

Mugshots on the internet have become a big business over the past few years. Two websites in particular seem to dominate the industry, and These websites legally acquire mugshots, probably through FOIA requests or other means, and then post them on the internet. Then they request substantial fees, sometimes several hundred dollars, to remove the mugshots from their website. Most people think these guys are the scum of the earth and I agree (although I do wish I would have thought of that idea first).

Some of the websites have courtesy removal services. Basically, if the charges that lead to the mugshot were dismissed or expunged, they will remove the photo for free. The process is pretty straightforward and I have had clients' pictures removed in as little as three or four days. But for those people who were not fortunate enough to have their charges dismissed or expunged, they find themselves with a dilemma. Of course, they can pay $300 or $400 to have the picture removed, but the risk is that a "new" website pops up next week under a different name and reposts the picture. It seems to me that paying the extortion fee is risky proposition, but there is not really an adequate alternative.

Several state legislatures have begun to consider this issue. Illinois recently passed a law dealing with online mugshots, but I think they may have made the situation worse, not better. Illinois has amended the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, effective January 1, 2014, to make it unlawful for those who publish criminal records information, including mugshots, to accept payment or other consideration for the removal or modification of such information. 

The Illinois legislature probably thought that these websites would just quit posting pictures if they no longer could accept money to remove them. However, it seems that the more likely scenario is that the websites will continue to post the pictures, but the subjects of the pictures will no longer have any way to remove them. I guess I'd rather have the option of paying the extortionists fee than not. If anyone has any questions about the removal of your mugshot from the internet, or the expungement process in general, feel free to give me a call. 

Public Act 098-0555 (eff. Jan. 1, 2014) (adding 815 ILCS 505/2QQQ new).

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Chronic Oversleeper is Entitled to Unemployment Benefits

Philip Wrobel was a pressman for the Chicago Tribune for 17 years. His shift started at 6:00 a.m. The Tribune had a policy that required him to phone in by 5:00 a.m. if he was going to be late or absent from work. There was also an attendance policy that provided for various levels of discipline for being late or failing to call. Mr. Wrobel was eventually terminated for repeatedly coming late to work and not calling ahead.

He applied for unemployment benefits, which the Tribune contested. At the hearing, Mr. Wrobel testified that on several occasions his alarm clock failed to sound because the power had gone off during the night. He also testified that on all of those occasions he had failed to set his wind-up alarm clock which was supposed to be used as a back up. He also admitted that his electric alarm clock did have a battery back up, but he had failed to insert any batteries. The hearing officer found that "the circumstances that caused his final attendance violation were within his ability or control to avoid," that he was properly terminated for misconduct, and that his unemployment benefits were denied.

Mr. Wrobel appealed. The appellate court noted that in order to be guilty of misconduct that would preclude benefits, the employee must deliberately and willfully violate a reasonable rule or policy of the employer. After reviewing the record and the testimony, the appellate court could not conclude that Mr. Wrobel deliberately and willfully violated the Tribune's rules. The court noted that the true problems arose when Mr. Wrobel forgot to set his wind-up alarm clock or put a battery in his electric alarm clock.

The court brilliantly observed that "One does not typically forget to do something intentionally; forgetting is a matter of carelessness." The court further observed that this case did not even involve a conscious act by Mr. Wrobel; but rather an "unconscious act: he overslept." The court ruled that Mr. Wrobel did not deliberately and willfully oversleep, but was rather only negligent, so he was entitled to his unemployment benefits.

What do you think Law Blog readers? Is chronic oversleeping grounds denial of unemployment, or was this guy just an unlucky man who did not deliberately violate company policy?  HERE is a link to the opinion if you are interested. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Should animals have "human rights"?

Two lawsuits were filed this week that seek findings of "legal personhood" for chimpanzees, akin to a corporation's status as a "person" in the eyes of the law. An organization called The Nonhuman Rights Project has been working for several years towards obtaining actual legal rights for non-humans. The group has been analyzing the common law of all fifty states for trends that recognize animals as legal persons; for instance, several states allow an animal to be a beneficiary of a testamentary trust. 

The group determined that New York had the legal precedent that gave them the best chance of obtaining legal rights for animals. The group plans three separate lawsuits on behalf of chimpanzees, the first two of which were filed on Monday. The lawsuits seek writs of habeas corpus, which are court proceedings brought on behalf of someone who is being held captive, most likely in prison. If the writ is issued, the captors must appear in court and show cause why they believe they have the legal rights to continue to hold the prisoner in custody. These lawsuits are being filed on behalf chimps that are privately owned. The lawsuits ask the courts to remove the chimps from their owners, where they are being held "captive," and place them in animal sanctuaries.  

Whether these particular chimps should be removed from their present owners is insignificant. The true importance of this case is that, if successful, it would be one more instance of animals being recognized as more than chattel, or personal property. I've already mentioned the animal trusts. I have also written before on this Blog about people being awarded pain and suffering damages for the deaths of the pets (For instance, here and here.) If the current trend continues, what will be next? Is it discrimination when the fancy restaurant won't allow dogs to sit at the dinner table? 

I don't like this current trend of affording animals more "rights." I agree that animals should be protected, but there are already laws that protect animals. There are very stiff penalties for people who abuse, mistreat, or neglect animals. What more do the animals need? I don't think animals should be given free speech, the right to peaceably assemble, or the right to bear arms. If anyone disagrees, I'd love to hear some comments on this one.