Small Businesses and the Law
Did you know that your small business is subject to the same regulations as a giant commercial entity? If you find this startling news, you’re not alone; most entrepreneurs in the United States assume that laws apply only to much larger corporations.
All companies – small, medium, large and mammoth – must adhere to the applicable local, regional and national laws and regulations.
Hopefully, you’ve been aware of these since the day you opened for business, but if not, we encourage you to take the time now to become compliant. You may wish to engage legal counsel to explore these areas more thoroughly and ensure you have adequately covered yourself and your company.
Let’s begin with your great idea: have you protected your intellectual property? You may wish to investigate filing for a trademark, patent or copyright. A related issue is having non-disclosure contracts in place to prohibit employees or others closely involved with your company sharing your proprietary information.
Spreading the message about your great products or services? Your clients and customers are protected by numerous advertising and marketing laws. The Federal Trade Commission is the agency mainly responsible for enforcement of these laws and regulations. At a minimum, advertising must be truthful and not deceptive, and advertisers must have evidence they can produce that reinforces any and all claims.
Other laws abound in specific industries and for certain products, so investigate all regulations pertaining to your particular industry and products or services.
In addition to the Federal Trade Commission, state and local regulatory agencies also govern advertising. Many resources and publications are easily available on the Internet to help navigate through the complex rules for advertising. The Consumer Action Handbook (http://www.usa.gov/directory/stateconsumer/index.shtml) is a great place to start.
Protection is provided for investors and others related to areas of finance through securities, bankruptcy and antitrust laws.
Privacy laws ensure your customers know how their personal information will be used, shared and protected.
Your business may also be impacted by environmental regulations or by the Uniform Commercial Code, should you transact business outside your state.
Last – but certainly not least – are the numerous federal and state labor and employment laws. It is wise to be aware of the many regulations in place that protect employees. This extensive area includes child labor, wages, employee eligibility, workplace safety and health and workers’ compensation.