Information given on new Illinois laws for employers

Aurora University discusses social media
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Attorney Penelope Lechtenberg informed the public at Aurora University about social media, free speech and Northwestern University football players unionizing.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, July 3, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at pat@foxvalleylabornews.com

AURORA — Addressing the changing rules of labor in today’s society, attorney Penelope Lechtenberg, partner with Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP in Rockford, talked at Aurora University June 25. She talked about social media, free speech, and the Northwestern University football players unionizing.

It was found by the National Labor Relations Board earlier this year that Northwestern players are more likely employees rather than non-employees. The decision is being appealed, but Lechtenberg said the decision carries a lot of weight behind it.

“It’s very interesting and it took me by surprise. I don’t know why I didn’t see this coming, but it’s fascinating,” she said.

Lechtenberg said players who have been awarded a scholarship to play are compensated and work 20 to 50 hours per week. They also generate millions in revenue. They were found to be employees eligible for unionizing.

“Is there an overwhelming community of interest between these people? The questions this opens up are endless. It has the potential to change college athletics,” she said.

Also on topic was social media — specifically whether employees can openly complain about employers online. A recent ruling said talking about working conditions on a social media platform such as Facebook is protected speech.

“If it’s just a person randomly saying horrible things, then they are likely to be disciplined. But if you complain about a specific thing about your workplace, and others join in, this is discourse. This is protected. It’s a fine line and it’s evolving,” said Lechtenberg.

What about screaming at your boss, using profanity, and . . . getting away with it?

A May 2014 case saw employee asking about pay at an auto dealership. The conversation got heated, he raised his voice, used profanity, and was terminated for being belligerent. The outcome was surprising.

“The NLRB found this profane outburst as protected,” said Lechtenberg. “The employee was protected because the outburst was in the context of discussing his terms and conditions.”

Lechtenberg represents management in labor and employment-law matters before federal and state courts and administrative agencies. They include OSHA, National Labor Relations Board, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Citizenship and Immigration Services.

On the looming immigration front, Lechtenberg said Illinois employers need to get their I-9 tax forms in order.

“There will be a lot more audits going on now. There is a huge workplace compliance push, and the penalties for incorrect I-9s are huge,” she said.

Boys II Men provide sense

Aurora's Boys II Men
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Hector Velazquez, a senior at Aurora University and Boys II Men member, said he owes his success to Clayton Muhammad.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at pat@foxvalleylabornews.com

NAPERVILLE — Instead of further incarceration, which would only add to the problem of gang violence in Aurora, Boys II Men Founder Clayton Muhammad decided to tackle the gang violence problem of Aurora at the root more than 10 years ago.

Young men needed mentors they could trust, and hope they could one day succeed instead of waste their lives in gangs or in prison.

“You can’t just tell people not to go to gangs. You must provide an alternative,” said Muhammad during a June 19 meeting of the Naperville Township Democratic Organization, which hosted Muhammad as their June speaker.

He said gang violence was at an all time high in 2002, with 26 young people killed in Aurora. Through the hard work of Boys II Men and the Aurora Police Department, shootings have been basically eliminated.

“We have fundamentally a different Aurora. It’s a different downtown than 10 years ago,” said Muhammad, who shared success stories throughout the years, highlighting young men who have gone on to achieve great success in the face of adversity.

“I can tell these stories over and over again,” he said.

One young well dressed man, Isaac Palma, joined Boys II Men in ninth grade. Dressing in saggy jeans, he needed a makeover in his confidence, something the organization provided in spades.

Aurora's Boys II Men
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Boys II Men Founder Clayton Muhammad decided that young Aurora men needed mentors they could trust and hope they could one day succeed.

“It gives you an outlet to go forward in life, and provides you a mentor you can talk to,” said Palma. “You’re not always able to talk to your parents.”

Hector Velazquez, a senior at Aurora University and Boys II Men member, said he owes his success to Muhammad.

“His leadership has shown young men how to establish themselves in this community,” said Velazquez. “We can always count on Clayton.

Muhammad stressed that Boys II Men provides a sense of family for the young men, encouraging them to succeed by any means.

“Not attending college is not an option in our world,” he said. “These boys are coming here to connect with something bigger than themselves. Our community is now one of hope, empowerment, and safety.”

Area vets visit one-stop veteran’s fair at AU

Aurora University veteran's fair
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Legion Post 84 Commander Mike Eckburg, along with Post 84 Auxiliary Unit President Norma Peterson, talk with a veteran about what the American Legion stands for.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at pat@foxvalleylabornews.com

AURORA — The City of Aurora lived up to its veteran friendly reputation as it hosted its second annual Veterans Resource Fair June 20.

Veterans were invited to check out information about educational opportunities, employment, housing, health care, mental health, financial programs, legislative assistance, and other area veterans’ organizations.

The fair was hosted by the Veterans Advisory Council, Aurora University, and the DuPage County Veterans Center at the Aurora University Institute for Collaboration.

“Our goal is to get information and help to any veterans who might need it,” said Bob McKnight of the council.

Norma Peterson, president of the Aurora Auxiliary unit of the American Legion Post 84, said the Legion benefits the community as a whole.

“There are 26,000 veterans in the Aurora area. Not only are we doing things for other veterans, we’re doing it for the community. The American Legion stands for Americanism at its finest,” she said.

Often times, said Peterson, a veteran may just need a sense of companionship or brotherhood when returning home.

“It’s a sense of community, of doing things with other people while doing a lot of healing themselves. Young vets may not realize the resources we can provide for them,” Peterson explained.

The Aurora Library was there to present its vast resources. While not typically associated with veterans, Chris Schabel informed that veterans can benefit greatly from the library.

“Veterans coming home, some of them might need to brush up on their literacy. We offer classes on that and also computer classes. This can aid in getting a job,” she said. “We’re working toward having as many free and available resources for the community as we can have.”

Many returning vets may not know of the free services that the DuPage County Vet Center provides — namely counseling for vets who have suffered military trauma or sexual trauma while serving. They also offer counseling to family members of those that have been killed in service, all without any wait lists. There is a branch in Aurora, located at 750 Shoreline Drive, Suite 150.

Another huge overlooked resource is Aurora’s own Old Second National Bank, which has a program for veteran first time home buyers where the bank will pay $10,000 in assistance to buy a home in Illinois.

“We’re actually having our first closing of the Welcome Home Heroes program this week,” said Old Second National Bank Vice-President of Real Estate Lending Phillip DeLaFuente.

“It’s our way of saying thanks for serving,” DeLaFuente explained.”