Category Archives: Member Spotlights

Protecting Your Business from Wrongful Termination Lawsuits


By: Arthur Ehrlich

Employees who believe they were terminated unfairly or without prior warning are likely to file a lawsuit. Although Illinois is an “at-will” employment state, an employer cannot terminate employees based on disability, sex, pregnancy, race, or any other “protected” classification.  A failure to treat an employee fairly may create a perception of discrimination which can lead to expensive litigation even if the employer feels the termination was warranted.

While an employer may believe there are strong reasons for termination, discrimination is often based on circumstantial evidence. For example, you may believe you terminated a female employee for chronic absenteeism, but she may believe it was due to her race or gender, especially if Caucasian male employees had several absences and were not terminated. An employer may terminate an older employee for low productivity not knowing that there may be good reasons for this, while younger employees with productivity issues remain at work.

Employers cannot eliminate the risk of a lawsuit, but certain steps can reduce that risk and minimize the likelihood of a successful wrongful termination lawsuit:

1) Create and distribute written policies to employees which include reasonable expectations about conduct and performance. Employees should sign forms noting they read and understand these expectations.

2) Enforce your policies fairly and consistently: This is your best defense against discrimination claims. Disciplining one employee differently than another for similar violations, constitutes disparate treatment which is evidence of discrimination. Eliminate these risks by enforcing your written policies in a consistent manner.

3) Keep records of employee disciplinary issues: It is easier to justify terminating an employee for excessive absenteeism or poor performance if you discuss and document these issues with the employee and give written warnings about continued performance issues or violations of company policies. Have the employee acknowledge in writing that the issue was discussed. Be consistent in documenting these matters for all employees.

Arthur Ehrlich is a partner at Goldman & Ehrlich, which primarily practices employment law.

Member Spotlight: Dina Derman

Dina was introduced to the SBAC by a board member and met with both Elliot Richardson and Michael Cavanaugh at the SBAC office.

“It took no time whatsoever to be impressed by the advocacy support that the SBAC provides to small business owners in Illinois,” she says.

With over 30 years of banking experience, of which 20 years are in a management role, Dina is currently Senior Vice President and Administrator for Inland Bank’s Customer Call Center, Internet Bank and Health Savings Division.

She served as Vice President for the Retail Division from 2007 to 2013 before launching the internet-based eBank along with the national Health Savings Program.

“Inland Bank is a sponsor of the SBAC. As a community bank, we believe in relationships and supporting small businesses,” she says.

Dina has met many small business professionals and formed valuable relationships with them through the SBAC. Great relationships within the organization motivate her to stay engaged and involved.

“The SBAC has a dedicated board that I am honored to serve with,” she says. “It is definitely an organization that takes action and provides a vast array of resources to members.”

She encourages business owners and professionals who support them to join the SBAC, support advocacy efforts, and attend functions and networking events to form important connections.

“The SBAC is not just about networking opportunities, which there are many of, but more importantly the non-partisan advocacy of legislative issues that impact small business,” she says.


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Member Spotlight: Stephen Ball

Stephen Ball was awarded the Philip Zelkowitz Small Business Champion Award at the SBAC’s 6th Annual Advocacy Dinner & Awards Ceremony on May 4th, 2017. In his acceptance speech, he said, “What I did was small compared to what we all can do. Your voice will never be small again as long as we work together.”

As Senior Vice President and Head of MB Financial Bank’s Business Banking group, Stephen is responsible for products, goals, marketing, training, promotional initiatives, management, and production for all retail banking that pertains to businesses. He has spent his 23 years of banking experience focused on the small business market.

Along with his team of 35, Stephen helps businesses with lending and cash management solutions while providing sound analysis of their financials. Stephen encourages other entrepreneurs to focus on smart and profitable growth. “Don’t sell for the sake of sales,” he says. An experienced public speaker and published author, he has presented at Kent School of Law, as a keynote speaker at the Midwest Korean American Jaycees event in 2016 and various chambers of commerce and networking group events.

Due to the SBAC’s strong partnership with MB Financial Bank, Stephen joined the SBAC Board of Directors and became a very engaged and active member. He is passionate about the SBAC’s cause and appreciates the organization’s strong leadership.

“I don’t measure the business transactions that I get from being a part of the SBAC,” says Stephen. “For me, it is more about knowing that I am doing the right thing. Helping everyone helps us all.”


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Member Spotlight: Dwayne Hirsch


Dwayne Hirsch is passionate about advocating for small business and the advancement of entrepreneurship in Illinois. The SBAC is excited to award him the Advocate of the Year Award at our 6th Annual Advocacy Dinner & Awards Ceremony on May 4th.

An active and dedicated SBAC member, Dwayne is part of the Executive Committee, Policy and Membership Committees and also the host of the Hyde Park Happy Hour.

Advocacy is what keeps him engaged in the organization. He has joined the SBAC on trips to Springfield to advocate on behalf of the small business community. Dwayne helps engage with political leaders from both sides of the aisle, discussing important issues impacting entrepreneurs.

“There is a growing need for advocacy, or in other words, always a new battle to fight,” says Dwayne. “The SBAC has given me opportunities to work toward legislation that benefits the entire small business community.”

In many cases, businesses on the South and West sides of Chicago face similar issues as businesses throughout the state and can also receive similar benefits from engaging in the advocacy and activation of these legislative acts. As examples, Equity Crowdfunding, LLC filing fee bills along with the SBAC’s workers compensation and pension reform bills have impacts designed for the entire small business community.

Widely considered to be among Chicago’s best-known and most successful networking professionals, Dwayne has hosted over 150 networking events in the last several years and attended hundreds more with other organizations across a broad spectrum of interests. Through former SBAC Executive Director Amy Masters, he was introduced to CEO & Co-Founder Elliot Richardson in 2011 and has been a part of the SBAC ever since.

Dwayne is a Real Estate Broker with Coldwell Banker in Chicago, specializing in helping sellers, buyers, investors and renters achieve their goals in real estate. As a licensed realtor, he works mainly with residential properties and clients in Hyde Park, Kenwood, Bronzeville and the South Loop.

Dwayne is on the Advisory Board of Native Sons of Chicago, which makes direct and indirect investments through intrastate equity crowdfunding in local businesses and real estate projects in historically disadvantaged areas.

Dwayne has also been active with youth mentoring programs and is known to be a great friend and supporter of many of Chicago’s new and emerging business owners.


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Member Spotlight: Michele Rubin, SBAC Empower

Executive Director of SBAC Empower, Michele Rubin, is passionate about helping people fulfill their dreams.

With Michele’s experience in small business, education and nonprofits, she has the unique combination of skills to make SBAC Empower a success.

SBAC Empower is a 501(c)(3) non-profit focused on providing the education and support aspiring entrepreneurs need to start a small business. It was formed to further the SBAC’s mission and help people in career transitions successfully pursue their dream of owning a small business.

Michele has been a strong supporter of the SBAC since its inception. Growing up in a family that owned a small business, Michele is familiar with the challenges and rewards that come with owning a business.

She began her career as a middle school teacher in Chicago Public Schools in Humboldt Park, and then in Waukegan. After leaving teaching to raise her children, she became an active volunteer. Michele was immersed in the non-profit world through volunteer administrator roles. She also earned a Certificate in Non-Profit Management from University of Illinois-Chicago.

Michele is thrilled and honored to kick-start SBAC Empower. “While I am excited for our Chicago Entrepreneur Expo, I am most looking forward to our seminar series.” If you are interested in learning more about the Empowering Small Business Seminar Series, please click here.

SBAC Empower’s Chicago Entrepreneur Expo is taking place on April 18 at DePaul University Center. It is the perfect event for those in a career transition considering starting their own business or those looking to expand their current micro-business. For more information and to register, please click here.

Michele believes in supporting other entrepreneurs through rough times. “Believe in what you’re doing and persevere through the bumps in the road,” she says.

To learn more about SBAC Empower, you can visit their website here.



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