A small business owner gets pulled in many different directions. They are responsible for the success of the company and are continually faced with changing legal requirements that they must understand and adhere to. Here are some of the top legal issues that small business owners are dealing with in these changing times.
The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly created a whole new world of legal issues for business owners. Employee safety in the workplace has become the focus, with emphasis on procedures for employees who test positive for the virus or who exhibit symptoms, as well as those who have had close contact with someone who has. Adhering to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) is mandatory for employees needing time off for a COVID-19 related reason. And for the small business owner that is in need of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds, there are strict rules that must be followed in order to take full advantage of the assistance. When it comes to the overwhelming number of ever-changing laws and regulations surrounding COVID-19, an experienced business attorney can ensure that business owners stay current while providing the safest environment possible for their employees.
Whether dealing with other businesses or directly with the public, small businesses are rethinking their operations policies due to the changing environment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to be more accommodating to clients, a small business owner may opt to alter policies. For example, they might extend the time frame for returns or be more lenient with their collections procedures. Another difficult situation concerns the handling of signed contracts. In some cases, a client may have signed a contract for goods or services, but due to current conditions may not be able to fully utilize them (such as a booked venue or catering services, for example). Trying to enforce the terms of a signed contract can lead to a lawsuit, even though the contract is legally binding. It is always a smart idea to discuss your current policies and contracts with your business attorney. We can help you determine how to best avoid the potential for lawsuits, when you might want to have flexibility in cancellation policies, and when to maintain current policies and practices.
With so many employees working from home on an extended basis, a number of privacy concerns have surfaced. For example, there are strict state and federal laws and regulations concerning consumer data, and businesses are expected to keep this information private. For this reason, it is very important to have revised, thorough guidelines in place for employees that are handling sensitive, private consumer information when off-site. Additionally, the increased use of video conference calls presents a new set of privacy issues. Employees may have privacy concerns when it comes to exposing personal information, unauthorized recordings of the meetings, or even the risk of hackers gaining access to proprietary company information. A thorough review of procedures and cyber security management are essential in these times.
Diversity and Inclusion
Now more than ever, the small business owner needs to clearly and unequivocally state that they will not tolerate any kind of discrimination in their workplace. Improving diversity in the workplace is essential, with increasing focus on inclusive recruitment in terms of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and culture. However, despite good hiring intentions, business owners need to keep in mind that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender and other traits protected by law. This can be a tricky legal catch-22 when attempting to maintain a diverse workforce, but at the same time not considering these traits when hiring. It is legal to devise a strategic plan for a diverse, inclusive workplace, but a small business owner needs to rely on the good advice of their business attorney to make sure they are following every aspect of the law.
With the growing legal responsibilities being placed on small business owners due to constantly changing work environments, it is clear that working with an experienced business attorney is vital to the success of any organization. Churchill, Quinn, Richtman & Hamilton, Ltd has been providing expert legal guidance to our business clients for decades. We understand the complex nature of the legal issues that many small businesses face and we are dedicated to helping our clients navigate these challenges. Contact our office at 847-223-1500 for more information or to speak with our team.