October 2016
In the coming months we will share a series of articles written by firm founder Dick Wessels on the state of Labor Unions In America. Below is the first installment.
State of Labor Unions in America
By Richard H. Wessels, Esq.

This will be the introduction to a five-part commentary on the changing face of labor unions in the U.S. It is clear that private sector unions are in a state of serious decline. I believe that some good background material is my 2005 commentary on the precipitous fall of private sector unions, which back eleven years ago had a market share of 7.9%. Today private sector unions represent 6.7% of the USA private sector workforce. That 2005 article was entitled "Are Unions Dead?" Here it is.

In the private sector, if they are not dead, they are in a near death condition. Latest statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor show that private sector unions now represent LESS THAN 8% of workers.

A number of profound changes have occurred that have contributed to the death spiral for private sector unions. This commentary will address ten fundamental reasons for labor's decline.

Latest figures show that only 12.5 percent of workers, including both the private sector and government, were enrolled in unions in 2004, down from 12.9 percent in 2003. 

Questions? Contact Attorney Richard Wessels in our St. Charles office at (630) 377-1554 or by email at riwessels@wesselssherman.com
The Holidays Are Upon Us
By Walter J. Liszka, Esq.

It is never too early to begin planning for the Holiday Season of Calendar 2016 and the inevitable business Holiday Party. There is no doubt whatsoever that the festive season of November and December calls out every year for a business celebration and it is incumbent upon all Employers to be well prepared both for the party and the potential problems that it can create. Do not forget that we are a highly litigious society and individuals are always looking to "stick it to somebody" to enhance their financial standing. It is not too far-fetched to believe that Employers may be liable for injuries caused to innocent third parties under the doctrine of Respondeat Superior and, therefore, any Employer-related activity must be planned and controlled.

Here are a few suggestions:

1.  Alcohol Consumption - It has been clearly established that alcohol consumption goes hand-in-hand with any party and if you were to eliminate alcohol consumption completely, you would dampen the morale and spirit of any Employee attending. This does not mean that you have to have an open bar for the entire event.

Questions? Contact Attorney Walter Liszka at our Chicago office at (312) 629-9300 or by email at waliszka@wesselssherman.com
New Protections for Domestic Workers Equal New Litigation Opportunities
By Tyler J. Bohman, Esq.

A new law in Illinois, billed as the Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights Act (the "Act"), will apply several federal and state laws to previously unprotected domestic workers. The law, which will go into effect January 1, 2017, grants nannies, housekeepers, home healthcare workers, and chauffeurs new employment protections and affords new avenues for claims to be made against their employers. Employers of domestic workers are often single households or families who hire help for their children and housecleaning, and who are ill equipped to handle employment litigation compared to the average business.

The new Act amends several State of Illinois and federal laws to apply to domestic workers, who had been specifically excluded from the protections of those laws in the past. The Act applies to workers regularly employed at least 8 hours a week in domestic jobs, this excludes occasional babysitters.

Questions? Contact Attorney Tyler Bohman in our Chicago office at (312) 629-9300 or by email at tybohman@wesselssherman.comz  
Why It Is So Important To Train All Managers And Supervisors To Identify Harassment
By Nancy E. Joerg, Esq.

To protect the Company from becoming a defendant in a devastating lawsuit, all managers and supervisors must be carefully and periodically trained to recognize workplace harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.

COURTS LOOK TO SEE WHAT EMPLOYER DID TO HANDLE ALLEGED HARASSMENT: Without the proper and extensive training of managers and supervisors, an employee's harassment complaint may never make its way to those people who are in charge of investigating workplace complaints. If the complaint is not passed along to the right people in the Company, this roadblock could expose the Company to significant financial risk. Judges usually evaluate what, if anything, the Company tried to do to handle the alleged harassment.

Naturally, the better trained and confident the Company's managers and supervisors are to recognize and report harassment problems in the workplace, the more quickly the Company can take prompt and appropriate action to resolve the alleged harassment, and to avoid expensive lawsuits.

Questions? Contact Attorney Nancy E. Joerg in our St. Charles office at (630) 377-1554 or by email at najoerg@wesselssherman.com
FLSA White-Collar Exemption Rule - Effective December 1, 2016
By Walter J. Liszka, Esq.

As every Employer is aware, there has been a flurry of activity to forestall the implementation of the United States Department of Labor's new Fair Labor Standards Act White-Collar Exemption Regulations that were scheduled to take effect on Thursday, December 1, 2016. There have been two (2) separate Lawsuits filed in the Texas Federal Courts seeking to block these Regulations. As the date of this article, the Court has withheld Temporary Injunction status, so the chances of the December 1, 2016 date being forestalled because of Court action is fairly nonexistent.

As well, the House of Representatives passed a Bill (H.R. 6029) that would delay the implementation from December 1, 2016 to June 1, 2017. While the passage of this House of Representatives Bill was seen as "a glimmer of hope", since the United States Senate has not taken this matter up for discussion or vote, the forestalling of the December 1, 2016 date by Congressional action is improbable. As well, it should be clearly noted that regardless of whether or not the Senate voted to approve the House of Representatives Action, the matter would have been vetoed by President Obama and, from a practical standpoint, there are not enough votes to overturn any veto. Since there is little change of the December 1, 2016 date being forestalled, Employers should not take a "wait and see approach" in this matter.

Questions? Contact Attorney Walter Liszka at our Chicago office at (312) 629-9300 or by email at waliszka@wesselssherman.com
Upcoming Events
For more information or to register for any of the following Wessels Sherman events, click on the provided hyperlinks below or contact any of our offices.
Wednesday, November 30, 2016, 8:00 - 10:00 a.m.
Seminar, St. Charles, IL

Investigating Sexual Harassment Complaints The Right Way!
Thursday, December 15, 2016, 2:00 - 3:00 p.m.
The attorneys of Wessels Sherman have the superior experience, knowledge and leadership to aggressively represent your business nationwide, including St. Charles, Chicago and Cook County, Illinois; Oconomowoc, Wisconsin; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Davenport, Iowa and the entire Quad Cities area.
CLIENT ALERT Editor-in-Chief................Walter J. Liszka
Minnesota........................................James B. Sherman
Wisconsin.........................................Alan E. Seneczko
Iowa...............................................Joseph H. Laverty
Illinois..............................................Nancy E. Joerg
The Client Alert is a complimentary newsletter published periodically for clients and friends of Wessels Sherman. We reserve the right to limit distribution of our materials to representatives of management. The materials in this newsletter have been abridged from a variety of sources and are not necessarily applicable to a particular situation. The contents of this mailing should not be construed as legal advice. State laws vary. Readers should consult with legal counsel before taking any action on matters covered by this mailing.