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posted: 12/2/2013 5:00 AM

2014 issues: Medical marijuana, ban the box, concealed carry

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There's the every-year question about how you'll grow your business and its profits. Taxes are a perennial issue.

But Renée L. Koehler has some new items, fortunately with suggested solutions, to add to virtually every business owner's 2014 watch list. Koehler, an attorney and partner at Koehler & Passarelli LLC, a management-focused employment law firm in Woodridge, raises the following issues:

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• Concealed carry. Illinois' new Firearm Concealed Carry Act allows individuals to carry a loaded (or unloaded) concealed firearm, essentially a handgun. As a business owner, however, you still can prohibit firearms in your workplace -- but, thanks to quirky language in the legislation, only if you own the building where your business lives.

If you rent space, you'll have to prevail upon the building owner, even if it's a Real Estate Investment Trust across the country, to ban concealed firearms. One Koehler thought: Have such a ban written into your lease.

Koehler also suggests an HR policy that bans concealed weapons, including such things as Tasers, knives and billy clubs.

• Illinois' new medical marijuana law. You cannot discriminate against registered medical marijuana patients based solely on their status, but, Koehler says, employers can discipline an employee who appears to be under the influence of drugs, even medical marijuana, if job performance is affected.

You must be able to document how the alleged drug use affects an employee's performance -- slurring of speech and tripping are two examples -- and it's best to have both a supervisor and another witness document the behavior.

• Ban the Box. Though there is no such prohibition in Illinois, more than 50 municipalities and states have Ban the Box laws. The box is the one on job applications where prospective employees are asked if they ever have been convicted -- which is why backers call their cause Ban the Box.

The concern is that applications from candidates who mark the Yes box will be quickly discarded. Illinois does not have a box prohibition, but the previous conviction issue may surface if you have out-of-state locations.

The safest way to eliminate a potential problem, Koehler says, is to remove the question from your application form. When you have a candidate you'd like to hire, make your job offer conditional on the candidate being able to pass a criminal-background check.

• Bullying, not mentioned in the headline because only so many words fit at the top of this column.

There are no laws that ban bullying in the workplace -- unless a bullying situation involves an individual in a protected category -- but, says Koehler, bullying victims have brought suits based on assault and battery issues.

"It's a good idea to include an anti-bullying provision in your business' anti-violence policy," she says. "Bullying affects the work environment."

Even text messages sent on private equipment from outside the office can make a targeted employee fear for her, or his, safety at work, Koehler says. That's bullying.

• Jim Kendall welcomes comments at JKendall@121MarketingResources.com

© 2013 121 Marketing Resources Inc.

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