If you are considering or already have started your own business, you are probably overwhelmed by the legal implications of doing so. While this is not an uncommon feeling as most business owners are not lawyers, you should still have basic knowledge of some of the salient legal issues facing business owners. Here are three that we think are important.
A small business owner can be liable for certain actions of his or her employees. This is known as vicarious liability. Generally, an employer is liable for the actions of an employee when the employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment. While this seems pretty narrow, the courts have applied vicarious liability to a variety of situations. An entrepreneur should have a general liability insurance policy as a means of protection.
As a business owner and employer you must also be aware of overtime laws. Depending upon an employee’s classification – either exempt or non-exempt, he or she might be due overtime for any work above and beyond forty hours per week. A small business owner needs to be up to date on the newest rules and regulations and be sure to classify employees correctly to avoid being penalized.
Entrepreneurs are often faced with intellectual property concerns. Intellectual property includes copyrights for works of art, patents for inventions and trademarks, which apply to brands. Business owners can be accused of infringing someone else’s intellectual property or claim that someone else is using his or her IP without authorization. Intellectual property litigation is expensive and time consuming, and can have a negative effect on your business reputation.
If you are considering starting a business or have already done so, an attorney can advise you on these and any other legal matters affecting your business.