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Best Chicago Non-Compete agreement and trade secret lawyer

When a company sues a former employee for breaching confidentiality and solicitation agreements, it needs more than generalized accusations in order to hold up in court. Bridgeview Bank Group employed Thomas M. as a senior vice president and SBA loan officer from 2013 to 2015. Thomas originally signed a noncompete agreement that prohibited him from engaging in SBA lending for six months after termination, but after he was dismissed by the company, the contract was modified as part of a severance agreement. He was allowed to compete with Bridgeview but had to refrain from soliciting Bridgeview clients or employees for one year, and from making “disparaging” comments against the company. He was also required to maintain the confidentiality of Bridgeview’s information.

More than four months after Thomas’s termination, Bridgeview brought claims against him for breach of contract and fiduciary duty, and tortious interference with business relationships. The company claimed that Thomas had contacted its customers, divulged confidential information, and made disparaging remarks about Bridgeview, alleging that he had interfered with “one or more contractual or prospective contractual relationships.” However, as noted by the First District Appellate Court on appeal, Bridgeview identified no specific customer, confidential piece of information, or disparaging comment in its complaint. Bridgeview also sought a temporary restraining order against Thomas, but provided no more in the way of documentation than e-mail messages Thomas supposedly sent to himself on his last day of work, containing an income statement, various internal passwords, and a list of about 3,000 contacts which reportedly included Bridgeview staff and prospective customers. Continue reading

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Best employment lawyers in Oak Brook Naperville and in DuPage and Kane CountyAn employment agreement that sets out a specific term of employment may not protect an employee from being terminated at any time. The Fifth District Appellate Court in Wessel v. Greer Management Services, Inc., 2016 IL App (5th) 150259-U recently ruled against a plaintiff who brought a breach of contract action against her former employer, holding that the language in the agreement she signed provided for at-will employment despite the inclusion of fixed employment dates.

Christina W. was hired as a compliance manager by Greer Management Services. She and a Greer representative signed an untitled document labeled an “employment summary,” which stated that Christina would serve in the position “for the period of January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2014,” and described the compensation package. However, the final paragraph read: “Greer Management Services reserves the right to change the above provisions at any time. The provisions of the policy manual govern the rights and obligations of the employee. The employee acknowledges that she is an employee at will.” After Greer terminated Christina’s employment in September 2013, midway through the term specified in the signed document, Christina filed a complaint against the company claiming that the document was a contract for employment which was breached by Greer.

The trial court dismissed the complaint, finding that Greer reserved the right to change the provisions of the agreement at any time, including by terminating Christina’s employment before the expiration of the term, and that the “employment summary” was not sufficient to overcome the presumption of employment at-will. Christina then filed an amended complaint again alleging breach of contract and also breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, for “terminating her employment without notice, warning, or explanation, contrary to her expectations.” The court against dismissed her complaint, on the grounds there was no valid and enforceable contract for employment and therefore could be no breach. Continue reading

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Best class action and privacy lawyers near Chicago Oak Brook Schaumburg and NapervilleA recent class action lawsuit filed against Facebook may end up having far-reaching implications for large companies that do business all over the country. The lawsuit has to do with the facial recognition technology the social media company utilizes to allow users to “tag” themselves and each other in photos that get posted on the site.

The named plaintiffs of the class action lawsuit sued Facebook in Illinois for allegedly violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). The law requires companies using facial-recognition software to inform their customers of the facial-geometry data that is being collected, how long the information is stored for, and how it gets used.

The law also requires companies to get a written release from consumers to authorize the company to collect the data. Negligent violations of BIPA come with statutory damages of $1,000 and $5,000 for violations that are considered to be intentional and reckless. Continue reading

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Chicago's best 1983 and First Amendment lawyersIt’s generally a good idea to avoid saying any negative things about the company/people you work for, but what if you work for the government? The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was designed to promote the open and free discussion of politics and public figures, and that includes public workers who are employed by the government. This means employers are not allowed to retaliate against workers who express a political opinion.

This issue was recently brought before the U.S. Supreme Court over an allegedly illegal demotion. As it turns out, it was all a big misunderstanding, but the mistake had a very real effect for Jeffrey J. Heffernan, who worked as a police detective in Paterson, NJ. Heffernan’s bedridden mother had asked him to pick up a sign for Lawrence Spagnola, a candidate for mayor. Heffernan said he had not taken any position with regard to the candidate, but when he was carrying the sign for his mother, it looked as though Heffernan was making a political statement and endorsing Spagnola. As a direct result of his supervisor’s understanding of the situation, Heffernan was demoted to patrol officer. Continue reading

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Best defamation libel and Slander lawyers near DuPage County and Kane CountyNobody likes getting a bad job performance review, but can an employee who receives one and later loses her job bring a winnable claim for defamation? Probably not, according to a recent decision issued by the Illinois First District Appellate Court.

Sandra G. was employed by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) in an executive position. Upon hire, Sandra signed an offer letter stating her employment was “at will” and could be terminated at any time. About a year and a half later, she was informed the budgetary funding for her position had been eliminated, ending her employment with AANA.

In 2010, she brought a complaint against AANA and one of their executives alleging defamation per se, invasion of privacy, and intentional interference with business expectancy, as a result of a negative job performance evaluation that preceded her termination. Defamation per se, or “on its face,” arises from statements falsely asserting that someone is involved in unlawful activity or is deficient in her professional abilities. In all defamation cases, a plaintiff must prove the statements were uttered to a third party. Continue reading

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Best Dupage County slander libel and defamation lawyers near Naperville and WheatonA board member’s reporting of suspected corporate financial malfeasance to the SEC is protected from litigious retaliation by Illinois’ Citizenship Participation Act, but reporting it to shareholders is not.

Ditto Holdings, Inc. is a private shareholder-owned corporation whose sole subsidiary is Ditto Trade Inc., an online retail stock trading company. In 2013, Trade CEO and Ditto Holdings board member Paul S. allegedly discovered evidence of suspicious financial activity by Ditto’s chairman and CEO, Joseph F., including possible securities law violations. Records indicated Joseph had been diverting the company’s capital to himself personally and had spent $1.5 million for the benefit of himself and his family. Paul S. wrote to Ditto’s board revealing his concerns. After receiving a hostile response from the general counsel and another director, Paul S. reported his allegations to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Shortly thereafter, Paul was notified the board had fired him as CEO of Trade for failing to obtain his brokerage license. After allegedly learning Joseph was attempting to have him removed from the board, Paul sent an e-mail to more than 200 Ditto shareholders, claiming to be the victim of retaliation for doing his duty as a board member. Paul was then informed he had been removed from the board by consent of the shareholders, and removed as executive vice president for his “destructive and reckless” actions. Continue reading

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Chicago non-compete agreement attorneys near Schaumburg and PalatineIf an Illinois employer drafts a post-employment restrictive covenant that is impermissibly overbroad, it cannot expect a court to modify it and enforce it, as a recent Third District appellate case illustrated.

Brian S. joined Deere Employees Credit Union (DECU) in 2009 as an investment advisor at its main branch in Moline, Illinois. His employment contract prohibited him from soliciting DECU’s clients or members for a two-year period following his termination. Brian resigned from DECU in 2015 and began working for a different financial services provider. He sent letters to up to 250 of his former DECU clients notifying them of his new situation.

DECU sued Brian for breach of the nonsolicitation covenants, seeking a preliminary injunction barring him from further contact with its members. Brian acknowledged his current clients included up to 17 DECU members, but argued the contract was unnecessarily broad, unenforceable as a matter of law, and could not be used to grant injunctive relief. The trial court found the covenants overly broad and unenforceable as written, but partly granted DECU’s request for injunctive relief by modifying the contract language and enjoining Smith’s contact with only those members he served while employed at DECU. Continue reading

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Chicago's best copyright and trade secret lawyers near Elgin Leke Forest and HinsdaleSome people claim that nothing is unique. That everything we come up with has already been done by many others and will be done again. But there’s a difference between great minds think alike and someone repeating something they’ve seen someone else do.

Copyright law exists to protect creative ventures and intellectual property. That can get tricky when it becomes difficult to draw the line between the things that constitute infringement and the things that are considered public domain. For example, an entire work, such as a song, article, or book, is eligible for copyright, but short phrases and individual words are not.

Writing software code is not much different from writing anything else. On the one hand, it requires a certain amount of creativity and, although two people may write code that does essentially the same thing, they will not write it in exactly the same way. On the other hand, there are only so many ways they can tell a computer how to do something. If some of those ways are protected by copyrights, it severely limits the options coders have for trying to do the same or similar things.

This debate is at the heart of a lawsuit Oracle Corporation filed against Google for allegedly stealing code written by Java and using it in Google’s Android. In its complaint, Oracle alleges purchasing Java was the most significant and lucrative purchase it has made, and that everything produced by that company should therefore be protected as Oracle’s property. Because Google has made an estimated $21 billion in profit from Android since it launched in 2007, Oracle is claiming $9 billion of that money. Continue reading

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Best partnership dispute lawyers near Chicago Naperville and Oak BrookA plaintiff seeking to recover on a breach of fiduciary duty claim against a business partner must be able to show more than just evidence of his partner’s bad conduct, but must also demonstrate that he suffered measurable damages as a result of the conduct.

For almost a decade, JAP, Inc. and Today’s Sushi Corp. jointly owned and operated trendy Chicago eatery Sushi Wabi, cashing in on the burgeoning national sushi craze. In 1998, Angelo G., owner of JAP, and Angela L. and Susan T., owners of Today’s Sushi, entered a limited partnership agreement to open the Randolph Street restaurant, with each entity owning about half of the enterprise. The venture capitalized on Angela and Susan’s experience operating sushi restaurants, with JAP providing most of the investment funds. The partnership agreement gave each partner full power of management and control of the operation of the business by unanimous consent. Angelo’s brother Franco was made manager of Sushi Wabi and put in charge of daily decision-making, with Angelo to be consulted on “major” decisions. Things soured when Angela and Susan attempted to remove Franco as manager. JAP brought breach of fiduciary duty and conversion claims against the pair, and filed for an accounting and dissolution of the partnership. In its complaint, JAP alleged 19 separate bases for breach of fiduciary duty and demanded consequential and punitive damages. Continue reading

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Best Class Action and Business Attorneys near Chicago Tinley Park and Downers GroveIn the court system of the United States, it is possible for plaintiffs who have not suffered a measurable injury but have suffered an intangible injury such as invasion of privacy or loss to reputation or humiliation to file a lawsuit against another party. This means even if the plaintiff has not been physically injured or suffered any financial loss, they might still have an opportunity to make someone pay up for violating the law.

Most laws come with statutory provisions in which the statutory penalty for breaking the law is often written into the legislature itself. Sometimes it’s a defined number and other times it’s a range. Either way, they provide an opportunity for plaintiffs who have not lost anything tangible to file claims.

Businesses lately have been complaining about a slew of consumer class action lawsuits that focus on what they claim are mere technical violations of the law. One such case is that of Thomas Robins against Spokeo Inc., a people search engine. Robins alleged Spokeo had violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) by posting that he was employed, wealthy, and married, when in fact he was single and struggling to find work. Continue reading