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August 2018

Texting While Driving: New Illinois Penalties

Friday, August 31st, 2018

It has become a common thread for me to discuss new laws in Illinois. Most of the blogs I’ve written involve discussing the new laws that Illinois has imposed that week, month or year. However, I feel as an attorney it is my job to make sure people are aware of the new laws that Illinois puts into effect. They usually aren’t advertised, happen quite frequently and are forgotten about just as fast.

So, this weeks new Illinois law is higher penalties for texting while driving. Beginning July 1, 2019, a first offense of texting while driving will be charged a moving violation in Illinois. Previously, a first cell phone violation was treated as a non-moving violation and only second or subsequent violations counted against your driving privileges. The old law has been in effect since 2014. Fines and court costs also may be imposed under the new law. Further, this new law does not only apply to texting, but the Illinois law says that a person may not operate a motor vehicle on a roadway while using ANY electronic communication device.

The Illinois Secretary of State will suspend drivers over the age of 21 for three moving violations convictions within any 12-month period. For drivers under 21 years of age, a license suspension is imposed for only two moving violations convictions within a 24-month period.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that at least 25% of crashes involve distracted driving and driving a vehicle while texting is 6x more dangerous than drunk driving. This new law signed by Governor Rauner aims to make Illinois roadways safer.

If you receive a traffic ticket, it is important to take immediate action. As points add up on your driver’s license, the risk of suspension or revocation increases. In such situations, it can be beneficial to retain the services of a skilled Illinois traffic lawyer. Our office is here to help. Appointments may be scheduled through our toll free number at 888-488-4LAW or through our website at https://www.peterferracuti.com

-Attorney Kendall Hodges

Age Discrimination Victims Vindicated

Monday, August 27th, 2018

When I write a blog post about an ongoing case, oftentimes it is to make a specific point about the law or to illustrate a particular principle. Most of the time, the cases themselves probably either reach an out-of-court settlement or otherwise disappear from the scene without a public resolution-which is why it can be so refreshing when an actual judgement catches my eye on a case I’ve discussed previously.

The victorious parties on this occasion are Richard Pisoni, Darren Lindsey, and Mark Cameron, formerly of the Illinois State Police Special Weapons and Tactics Unit (SWAT), who alleged that they were the victims of workplace hostility, harassment, and isolation tactics as a result of their age. In 2016, I wrote about the case to illustrate how Summary Judgement can blunt the claims of victims by winnowing down the allegations that can be brought to a final hearing. At that point, two of the plaintiffs alleging retaliation were dismissed from the case and several allegations of breaches of state law were dismissed for lack of evidence. However, the judge ruled that a reasonable factfinder could, based on the evidence then presented, potentially find for the other Plaintiffs on the grounds of age discrimination.

This year, a jury did precisely that, finding that the Illinois State Police had unlawfully discriminated against the three plaintiffs based on their age by creating a hostile work environment. This jury ruling survived a post-trial Motion for a judgement as a matter of law this week, with the Judge again finding that the Plaintiffs had presented enough evidence to reasonably support the jury’s conclusion. Assuming that the case is not subject to further appeals, this can only be interpreted as a victory for age discrimination plaintiffs, especially those alleging discrimination based on a hostile work environment. At any rate, it is satisfying to see the case finally reach some level of closure, especially since the allegations date back all the way to 2010.

-Attorney Travis Dunn

New Laws in Illinois

Friday, August 10th, 2018

This past week two new Illinois laws have taken effect.

One of the laws deals with ride-sharing. The new law in Illinois aims to keep you safe while in a ride-share car. A ride-share car is similar to a taxi but goes under the names of Uber and Lyft. Ride-sharing has become extremely popular in the last couple of years and continues to grow, however, they have been coming under heavy scrutiny. There are multiple ride-share cars available now in the Illinois Valley. The new law that took effect Tuesday is now requiring ride-share drivers to undergo adequate background checks to ensure safety among those who use the service. The law requires that those applying to be ride-share drivers provide their full name and social security number and date of birth. It is kind of surprising to learn that this was not already a requirement. Previously, they were only required to give their address, age, driver’s license, motor vehicle registration and insurance. This new regulation comes after an accident that left a 23-year-old Lyft passenger killed in Chicago – her driver was under the influence of a drug. Ride-share companies like Uber say that it was already their standard, but the industry is still evolving and people slip through the cracks. With the new law, ride-sharing companies are now held to the same standard that other licensed transportation services have been held to for years.

The other major law that was signed into effect this past week requires that children need to ride in rear-facing car seats longer. The new Illinois law requires children to remain in rear-facing car seats until they are two-years-old or weigh 40 pounds or over. Medical professionals have said that this new law will better protect your little one. Studies have clearly shown that children, less than 2 years of age are safer when they are in a wreck when they are facing backwards. There is about a 75% less chance of serious injury or death. The American Academy of Pediatrics made the recommendation of rear-facing car seats until the age of 2 or 40 pounds in 2011, so it is finally time that Illinois got on board. The responsibility is on the person transporting the child to make sure that the child is in a proper car seat according to Illinois law. However, parents are also responsible for providing a car seat to anyone who transports their child. On a first offense, violators could face a $75 fine but on a second offense, they are facing up to a $200 fine. But the penalties may be far steeper and extend far beyond financial penalties if a child is hurt or dies while in your vehicle.

-Attorney Kendall Hodges

With apologies to the residents of Montana

Friday, August 3rd, 2018

People often talk about one state or another as having “At-will employment” where employees may be terminated for any reason or no reason at all. In fact, at-will is the default state of employment for private sector jobs in the U.S. The only state which definitely isn’t “at-will,” at least according to the normal understanding of the term, is Montana, where the default rule is that employees who have worked for their employer for more than six months cannot be terminated without cause. I don’t know why Montana alone has tacked so progressive on this, but any workers in Montana who have settled comfortably into their employment can basically ignore everything else in this post.

Of course, most public sector employees and those with strong employment contracts or collective bargaining agreements are protected from being fired without good cause. Many nationwide exceptions to the at-will doctrine have also arisen over time to guard against discrimination. There are Federal rules against firing firing someone due to their race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin. Illinois goes beyond this to prohibit discrimination on other grounds, like sexual orientation. There are also protections for certain whistleblowers, participants in unions, or those who are seriously ill or caring for sick family members.

So why are there still conversations about particular states and “at-will” employment? To put it simply, many states have created different degrees of other (non-discrimination-based) protections for their workers. So where does Illinois stack up? Generally speaking Illinois may recognize as wrongful other termination which:

Violates public policy (such as firing someone for refusing to break the law, reporting that the employer is violating the law, exercising a statutory right such as a workers compensation claim, or serving the public interest through something like jury duty) or

Violate an implied contract for a term of employment (these can be extremely difficult to prove as they are, by definition, not something which is explicitly laid out in an employment contract).

Some state courts have gone much further than Illinois and held that the employee-employer relationship is subject to an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. In these states, employers may not fire employees out of malice or when there is a bad-faith reason for the termination, such as not wanting the employee to get full retirement benefits. One could argue that these states are no longer truly “at-will”, even though they still haven’t formally stated that good cause is required to terminate an employee.

Of course, much like the messy end of any relationship, each termination is different. The only way to know if your employer has violated the law by terminating you without good cause is to have your case evaluated by an attorney who is familiar with the law in your state. Or to move to Montana.

-Attorney Travis Dunn