For the first time since the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, rental operators were able to gather at the ARA of Illinois’ educational seminar and the ARA of Chicagoland’s tabletop event on Tuesday, Jan. 31, in Glen Ellyn, Ill. More than 200 Illinois rental operators took part in this combined event, which offered not only insightful education but also connections with vendors, dinner, updates from the American Rental Association (ARA) and prize drawings.
Kicking off this free event was a presentation by Elaine Hand, president of InnerView, who addressed new state laws and updates to current statutes that will impact rental business owners now and next year, including those affecting harassment- and discrimination-prevention training requirements, Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updates, poster requirements, Illinois Human Rights expense reimbursement, cellphone policies, I-9s, employee files and the like.
Mike Wirtz Jr., vice president, Wirtz Rentals Co., Summit Div., Summit, Ill., who serves on the ARA of Illinois board and arranged for her to speak, was impressed with her presentation.
“Elaine is a terrific speaker when it comes to this topic. Her knowledge is unbelievable. It seems like there’s not a question she can’t answer. And for anything that seemed like it needed deeper insight, she offered to provide a follow-up email covering all the topics she addressed in more detail. That was terrific,” he says.
Becky Lennon, owner, Channahon General Rental, Channahon, Ill., wholeheartedly agrees. “Her presentation about the new laws concerning employees in Illinois was very valuable. I have been to educational sessions with Elaine two or three times now and she is always a great resource. There are a lot of new laws. My manager, John, and I took lots of notes and have made a list of all the things we need to update,” she says.
One new law — the Paid Leave for All Workers (PLFAW) Act, which is supposed to go into effect next year — really stood out to Lennon. “This is different from FMLA (the Family Medical Leave Act). With this new law, it appears that employees can take this leave without giving any reason or any notice. For a small business like ours, it will make it difficult to run our business,” she says, noting that she plans to investigate this further.
This also caught the attention of Beth Schoenheider, accounting manager, American Rental, Morton, Ill., who was a first-time attendee at this event. “I wasn’t aware of the paid leave act. Elaine thought it would be applicable to part-time employees, too. It will be something we will need to pay attention to and track,” she says.
Schoenheider felt the whole session was worthwhile. “It is helpful to get a refresher and learn about the new laws. I used to be in public accounting before I joined American Rental. Because I am not in that area anymore, I am not up to date on all the new employment laws as soon as they come out. She reminded me of things that I knew that maybe we have gotten kind of lax on. She also informed me about some new up-and-coming employment laws that I wasn’t necessarily aware of. It is nice to know what we should be paying attention to and looking forward to coming our way. She did an excellent job. I was really impressed,” she says.
Terry Allen, president, Webber Rental & Supply, Galesburg, Ill., who serves as ARA of Illinois president, also felt it was worth his time. “It was very valuable. It is not the kind of topic that you love to go to a seminar on, but it is important,” he says.
ARA’s Erika Singleton, far left, and Lori Byerly, third from left, met with Illinois rental operators at the ARA of Chicagoland Tabletop event, which featured the ARA of Illinois seminar.
“I was surprised by the amount of new regulations going into effect. For instance, we have to store and differentiate employee forms in different file cabinets for public vs. private employee information. She also talked about all the additional requirements for salaried employees to qualify as exempt. These were just two items she covered. It was so much — to the point of being scary. We are not a large enough organization to have a full-time HR person, but I think it looks like we are heading in that direction,” he adds.
After the seminar, which offered critical information for Illinois member rental businesses, attendees had a chance to connect with the more than 30 vendors to who took part in the tabletop portion.
Lennon was happy to talk with “vendors I’ve known for years as well as new ones. It was great to see everyone to better understand what the ship dates are on equipment. It helps us start to figure out what items to put on our wish list for The ARA Show™,” she says.
“I was able to have good interactions with the vendors,” Allen adds. “This tabletop helps us prepare for the show and helps us in starting our order process for figuring out when items will be available.”
A delicious dinner followed, during which Lori Byerly, director of ARA’s chapter leadership relations, addressed the group about the latest offerings from the association and talked about the value of attending The ARA Show in Orlando. Then Erika Singleton, manager of ARA’s rental industry workforce development, highlighted the resources available from the association that can help members attract, onboard and retain employees.
“Their presentations offered another great way for those from ARA national to see members on a more individual basis and share resources that are important to our operations,” says Stephen “Sal” Salvatori, president, Event Equipment Rentals & Sales, who serves as ARA of Chicagoland vice president and treasurer as well as an ARA of Illinois board member.
The evening ended with prize drawings. “We raffled off everything from $50 gift certificates to small equipment. We had about 10 giveaways worth about $1,000, which was great,” Salvatori says.
The day offered something for everyone: education, vendor connections, networking with peers and great prizes to boot. “It was a great event and if you weren’t there, you missed out,” Allen says.