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2017’s Legal Issues Restaurants Should Note

2017’s Legal Issues Restaurants Should Note

The new administration in Washington and new legislatures across the country may soon unleash a blizzard of legislation and rules impacting the restaurant industry. Many of these changes would come in the wake of actions taken in 2016, some of which are just starting to take effect.

To that end, the following are some of the things business transaction lawyers want employers to know as the year gets rolling:

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infographic_Employer Legal Issues for Restaurants 2017


Medical marijuana is legal in Illinois, and possession of small amounts has been decriminalized. However, that doesn’t mean employers have to allow it in the workplace. The Compassionate Use Act says an employer can’t discriminate because an employee uses marijuana. However, employers may still maintain drug testing and zero-tolerance policies as long as they are applied evenly for all employees.

Minimum Wage

The minimum wage in Illinois is $8.25 per hour. However, Cook County has recently adopted a $13 per hour rate that will be phased in over the next two years. Businesses in Cook County who do not comply with the new wage could face fines and stiff penalties.

Joint-Employer Liability

New standards of liability are sweeping through the restaurant industry following the NLRB’s decision re: Browning-Ferris Industries. Following the decision, businesses who have direct or indirect control over workers, i.e. contractors, suppliers, etc, can be held liable for their own labor violations as well as any violations the contractor may commit. In the case of a franchise, the decision also means that the franchisor can be held accountable for the actions of the franchisee. This decision is being appealed, but it may not be reviewed until later this year.

Equal Pay

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act requires employers to pay men and women equally. Employees who believe they have been paid a rate that is less due to their gender may file an unfair pay complaint within 180 days of the pay decision. Starting later this year, the EEOC may require employers with 100 or more staff to submit their pay data for review.

Criminal History Disclosure

The Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act prohibits employers from asking most job applicants about their criminal record prior to being deemed qualified for the job and hired. While there are a few exceptions that can be discussed with a business transaction lawyer, most of these do not apply to personnel working within the restaurant industry.

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