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Although there are many benefits to owning a business, it can also bring its share of problems and difficulties. There are many issues that business owners may have to deal with, but none is more difficult than legal issues. Legal issues can easily cause a company to fail and, depending on the issue, may also affect the business owner.
The better functioning of society requires laws. This is true for business activities as well. These laws must be complied with, and the business can continue to operate unrestricted. If they are broken, the owners and business will likely be subject to an arm of the law that examines their business affairs and could sanction the business.
These are five legal issues every business owner needs to be aware of.
Even if a business is started as a single-person operation, it may hire more people as the company grows. The business must ensure that all aspects of its employee relationship are handled professionally and comply with all laws.
There will likely be a law that governs your actions, from the hours you work and the working environment to time off or dismissals. The business owner must ensure that they are aware of any laws and comply with them. It is not acceptable to ignore the law.
No matter how many employees you have, violating labor laws could lead to your company being in serious trouble. The harsher the penalties for violating labor law, the more employees you have.
Unwittingly, a business could be violating ethics laws without even realizing it. Because ethics is a complex area, what might seem ethical to one person may be unjustified by another. A business owner may not consider an issue related to business ethics, but they can continue to operate in the area even if the law says otherwise. The law does not respect persons, and anyone caught engaging in unethical activities will be punished.
Ethics can be applied to almost every area of a business: finance, human resource, sales and marketing, and contractual agreements. It’s easy to see that a business can easily violate an ethics law without even knowing.
Price fixing is an example of unethical business practices. For example, three local bakeries may decide to charge the same price for bread. While a company normally sets the price for its products and services, the government considers it to be reducing competition in the marketplace. Collaborating with other companies to fix the price of a product they sell will result in reduced competition. This is not in the best interests of the consumer. Price fixing laws prohibit cooperation because it is unethical.
A fine or another penalty may be handed to a company if it violates any ethical laws the government sets. This can be easily repaid. Other types of ethics violations could have repercussions in the public domain. With the advent of social media and easy access to information, a company’s credibility can be damaged by customers or the general public. This kind of “punishment,” often more difficult to recover from, is why businesses should be cautious about ethical issues.
Customer protection laws
Customers are often the most critical factor in determining the success of any business. These relationships can often be complicated and fraught with problems. This is why laws were created to manage and regulate businesses and consumers’ relationships.
Most often, laws will be more favorable for the customer than the company. These laws often protect customers from abusive or unfair business practices. The current customer protection laws cover many topics such as privacy rights, product liability, and misrepresentation.
As with any other area of law, violating consumer laws can devastate a business. This could include large fines or having its license suspended.
Intellectual property laws
There is a greater risk of knowingly violating intellectual property laws in this digital age, where most businesses have some form of digital footprint. Intellectual property laws protect intangible creations or “intellectual” creations. They include music, literature, and symbols, as well as content, designs, and images.
Copyrighted works on business websites, such as images or logos, are one of the most common ways an intellectual property law could be violated. A company may be more at risk if it outsources its digital management work to freelancers.
Our world is very mobile. Therefore, it’s quite likely that a business will receive job applications from people outside of the country. Businesses need to be aware that laws regulate the employment of non-citizens and non-permanent resident aliens in the United States. Violations of these laws can result in severe penalties.
The U.S. government can conduct surprise audits of immigrant companies and may impose heavy fines for those found to be violating immigration-related laws. It is the responsibility of the business owner to ensure that its employees are legally allowed to work in the United States.
A small business may face other legal issues, such as licensing, tax, competition, and licensing. Awareness of the laws and how they could impact your business is vital.