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Chicago Newsletter

Illinois Law: Why Ignorance is Never Bliss

By Susan Dawson, Founder and Partner of Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC and Immediate Past President - NAWBO Chicago

In 2015, amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act changed how businesses treat pregnant workers (we were previously considered disabled). Known as the Illinois Pregnancy Act, expectant mothers were granted accommodations like modified work schedules, a non-bathroom space for breastfeeding, and recovery leave, among others. The amendment also protected women from accepting accommodations they did not request or agree with.

Then came the day I got the call.

A new client explained to me that, in his opinion, he did “nothing wrong.” It turns out his company had violated the new law because they had acted based on their previous dealings with pregnant employees. The consequence was an investigation by the Illinois Department of Human Rights. I explained that what he used to do was no longer allowed.

New laws take effect about twice a year, typically January 1 and July 1. The biggest and best piece of advice I can share is: rely on your trusted advisors (especially for employment laws) – your attorney, accountant, insurance rep, HR consultant. Ask them about relevant changes in the law. 

Take the completely revised, 112-page Illinois Liability Company Act (also known as the “LLC Act”) as a good example. The LLC Act, effective July 1, 2017, affects LLCs with an operating agreement already in place. This legislation really impacts businesses with partners. Again, not knowing about a law is the easiest – and worst – reason to not abide by it.

Ask your advisors if they have knowledge sharing resources. NAWBO has quite a number of events that feature subject matter experts as well. An upcoming NAWBO Talks will feature ComEd CEO and President Anne Pramaggiore on Oct. 26 at the Metropolitan Club. Hiring consultants take more than pocket change so know when your conversations are billable and when they are not. At our firm, Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC, we host webinars that are free for clients and colleagues. The Q&A section is great; it literally gives people expert advice at no charge.

Having a front-row seat to experts who have “been there, done that” can shave off years of learning from unnecessary mistakes.

Another way to avoid being on the clock with advisors is to participate in a mentoring group like NAWBO CONNECTS. At one Northwest CONNECTS, a business owner shared her concern about a stressful, complicated business problem. Among the professionals in the room was an attorney (me), a staffing company executive, an unemployment consultant, and a 401K expert. We talked about possible paths and, by the time she left, she had greater confidence on next steps from real experts. Her bill? Zero.

Business laws and tax codes are ever changing. Fall is a great time to flesh out what you need to do to prepare for 2018. NAWBO has member resources like the NAWBO Chicago Facebook page and private member’s LinkedIn group so you have access to inspiration and insight from other Chicago-area women leaders. 

Pure bliss.