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Business Law

Business Law: Tips for Running a Family Business

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business lawIf you practice good business law, running a family business can be a great way to make money and ensure that your family members are employed, as well. Family-run businesses are often very successful due to the fact that many employees have a personal stake in the success of the company. There are special regulations that make a family business different, however. The business law guidelines are discussed in depth below.

Business Law 101:

Business Law Consideration #1 – Spouses Working Together

If you are considering starting a business with your spouse, there are many factors to consider prior to doing so. Having a solid marriage is the single most important factor, with effective communication as one of the key contributors. Additionally, partners should be able to work with each other as a team, rather than be competitive. Finally, it is crucial that home and work life be kept as balanced as possible – this means hopefully keeping ‘shop talk’ to a minimum when spending quality time with your spouse outside of the office.

Once the above factors have been taken into consideration, the next step is to speak to a qualified tax professional and an attorney who specializes in business law about how to legally structure your new business. This is important because there are a number of factors that contribute to whether  the business can be considered a corporation, a partnership, or an LLC. After speaking with a professional in your area of business law, you will be able to decide which choice is best for your business.

Business Law Consideration #2 – Employing Your Parent

When paying a parent employed by you or your company, the business law guidelines may be different. For instance, payments are probably not going to be subject to Federal Unemployment Tax. Payments also may or may not be subject to Medicare Tax and Social Security, depending upon the circumstances. Again, speaking with a tax professional and a business law attorney is highly recommended in this situation.

Business Law Consideration #3 – Employing Your Children

Many times in a family business, your child or children will become a crucial part of the workforce. Not only does employing your child bring extra income into the household, but it can also help teach adolescents and teenagers responsibility, teamwork, and a sense of accomplishment.

The first thing to consider when deciding whether or not to employ your child is how you can do so within the child labor law regulations. There may be exceptions to these business laws in some cases of a child working for their family’s business, so long as no child under 16 is performing any hazardous work.

As far as taxation of a child’s pay is concerned, this often falls under different guidelines than taxing a non-family employee. Sometimes payments to children are not subject to Medicare Tax or Social Security withholding. It is important to reference a business law professional if you are unsure, though. In addition, business law states that payments to children who are under the age of 21 also may not be subject to the Federal Unemployment tax.

Integrate Good Business Law into Your Family Business Today

Starting a family business is a great way to bring your family members closer together and give them a sense of pride in their collective teamwork; however, practicing good business law is of the utmost importance. Before starting any type of business, family or otherwise, it is always best to consult with an attorney and a tax professional to make sure you are following the business law guidelines set up by your state and federal government.

For more information about business law, contact Gutglass, Erickson, Bonville and Larson Law Firm today at (414) 273-1144.

Trademark and Trade Name: Know the Difference

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As a business, it is crucial that you know the legal differences between a trademark and a trade name. Many people fail to draw a distinction between these two entities.

Failure to know the difference between a trademark and a trade name can create confusion, or worse, get you into legal trouble. In an effort to help prevent any issues down the line, we have summarized the main differences.

trademark, trade nameTrademark

A trademark refers to a distinctive sign that identifies services and goods provided or produced by a specific enterprise or person. To keep things simple, associate trademark with a company’s brand — think names, words, slogans, symbols, and design.

When Should you Get a Trademark?

Deciding to register a trademark depends on an individual business’ discretion. You can register a trademark on both a state and federal level. Although both are not always required, they are highly recommended.

Having a registered trademark assures that you have exclusive use, preventing anyone else from using your trademark. How is done? The government serves to provide protection from any infringement or liability issues that might surface at a later date. Getting a trademark is a simple way to protect some of the things that make your business unique. Once you are ready to get a trademark, you can hire an intellectual property lawyer to register a trademark on your business’ behalf . You can also apply for the trademark registration personally.

Trade Name

As a business, it is important that you don’t confuse a trademark with a trade name. A trade name refers to a name that is very different from the name of your partner, your personal name, the name of your Limited Liability Company, or corporation that is officially registered. Just as the name suggests, a trade name is the name of your business. Things such as billing, tax filing, and formal identification are some of the issues that fall under the trade name of the company.

Know the Limits of a Trade Name

A business may get into trouble by relying solely on a trade name. This is because there are some businesses that assume a registered trade name gives them the freedom and right to use that name for any business-related purpose. However, in the event that a business uses its trade name in identifying its services and products, the trade name is serving the function of the trademark, hence there must be a consideration of the trademark law. A business is only legally allowed to use its trade name as a trademark to the limit of not infringing upon any existing trademarks.

If your trade name is very similar to a registered trademark, you may cause customer confusion. In the event that this happens, you may have to change your trade name and incur a considerable amount of expense in advertising to correct the mistake. Additionally, you might also end up paying for the lost profits of the original trademark holder. How can you avoid this from happening to your business? The best way to protect your business is to establish a good relationship with a skilled and experienced trademark attorney who will be able to assist you in this crucial process.

Protect your Business with a Registered Trademark or Trade Name Today

What sounds similar in name actually has very different legal implications in the business world. Because of this, it is crucial that you make the distinction between these two terms. Failure to do so can result in some serious legal consequences. When it doubt, play it safe and seek legal counsel.

For information about how Gutglass, Erickson, Bonville and Larson Law Firm can help you with trademark or trade name-related needs, contact us at (414) 273-1144.

How to Handle Employees Called to Active Military Duty

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Active Military Duty EmployeesActive military duty refers to when the military forces are called for full time active services. Protecting the people of the state and defending the borders are very important duties of all the armed forces. Handling these employees when they are called on such tours is not an easy task. Employers, under the services of Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), must follow all such rules that are required for the care of their military employees.  An employer must also focus on the following things:

How to Handle Active Military Duty Employees

  • Inform them about all their rights under USERRA, as well as the importance of the military duty.
  • Continue providing health coverage benefits to both the employee and their dependents for 24 months. The employee may select not to remain under the health coverage but under USERRA they will be entitled for reinstatement under the health coverage after they are reemployed.
  • Employees who are called into active duty must be offered reemployment in the position that they would have attained had they not been called away, including seniority, status, benefits and pay
  • Provide reemployment of a military service employee for up to five years following the date they were called into active service.

Military duties are usually spontaneous, so the most important part of it is to create a policy for all the employees that must be followed in any case. They must be given all the guidelines by their employers according to USERRA.

At Gutglass, Erickson, Bonville & Larson, we understand the challenges of dealing with legal issues for your business and we are here to help. Give us a call and we will be happy to answer all your questions. Call us today at (414) 273-1144.

FMLA – Can I Fire An Employee For Extended Sick Leaves?

By | Business Law | 5 Comments

FMLANo business owner finds the task of firing an employee pleasant; this is especially true when the employee is dealing with health issues. However, as Attorney Stacie Rosenzweig explains “if you end up keeping an employee on the payroll who is not capable of performing his or her job duties, this can also be damaging to the business as a whole”. This is particularly true for most small businesses, where the cost of one employee makes up a large percentage of revenue. Before attempting to fire an employee who has been taking extended sick days off from work, business owners should ensure that they are aware of their rights and the rights of the ill employee.

FMLA Eligibility

To be eligible under the FMLA Law an employee must have worked for the business for at least 12 months, clocked at least 1250 hours over the last 12 months and worked at a location where the business has 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius.

It is critical that small business owners realize that even if the business is not required to comply with the Family and Medical Leave Act, they might still be required to comply with state employment laws. These laws could be similar or stricter to the FMLA.

FMLA – Can I Fire An Employee For Extended Sick Leaves?

Business owners are not required to provide compensation for sick leaves, according to the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act). However, business owners should become familiar with the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act). According to the FMLA Guidelines, employees are provided with up to 12 weeks of unpaid sick leave for certain medical situations for either the employee or a member of their immediate family.

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, small business owners are required to provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year in the following situations:

  • The birth and care of the employee’s newborn child
  • Placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care
  • When caring for an immediate family member with serious health conditions. This includes a spouse, child or parent.
  • If an employee becomes unable to work due to a serious health condition.

At Gutglass, Erickson, Bonville & Larson, we understand the challenges of dealing with legal issues for your business and we are here to help. Give us a call and we will be happy to answer all your questions. Call us today at (414) 273-1144.

Can I Legally Use Business Profit For Personal Use?

By | Business Law | 5 Comments

Business ProfitIn the world of commerce, the definition of business profit varies based on the type of business which you are dealing with. This also determines who gets to make the decision on how to spend the business profit.

In layman’s terms, the business profit definition basically means the excess of income over expenditure, income from an investment or transaction or the advantage derived from engaging in an economic activity. The choice on how this profit will be used varies from the type and structure of business in which one is engaged in. The following list shows various structures of businesses and how the decision on how to use profit can actually be reached:

Business Profit Usage

Sole Proprietorship: This is a type of business owned by one person. He/she is solely responsible of the day to day management of the business. It is the most common type of business. The greatest advantage is that the sole proprietor gets to enjoy all the profit made by the business without sharing it with anyone. The disadvantage of such a business is that the sole proprietor also bears all the loss, decision making and the burden of running the business rest solely on him/her.

General Partnership: In this type of business, two or more persons contribute capital, labor and managerial skills in the running of the business. They get to share profits, losses, management, and liability upon some agreed upon ratio written in the partnership agreement. In this type of structure the business profit made is also divided among the partners upon a given ratio.

Limited Partnership: This is somewhat similar to a general partnership with the exception that the liability of limited partners can only extend to as much as their capital contribution towards the business was worth. They cannot be called upon to meet liabilities of the business beyond the capital amount they contributed towards the business. They also have a limited managerial role towards the organization.

Limited Liability Partnership: In this partnership business, individual member’s liabilities cannot extend to cover liabilities that results from negligence of a particular individual. This type of business structure is mostly found in partnerships formed by lawyers and accountants. The business profit made in this type of business is shared out among the members based on the agreement made by the partners prior to commencing operations.

Limited Liability Company: This type of business is more complex than the rest mentioned. Two or more individuals come together and form a business then register it with the registrar of companies: a process known as incorporation. This gives a legal personality to the business separate from its owners. The business profit is shared out to the shareholders as dividends.

Corporation: In this type of business, you are given more privileges and rights, but you are able to handle less liabilities than would have been the case if dealing in the same business as an individual or a company. Some of the benefits of working as a corporation are you get some financial benefits and tax cuts. Corporations are run by a board of individuals who oversee how profits will be shared out among the members.

Spending The Business Profit

Before you take up the profit made from a particular type of business. It is important to understand the structure of business in which you are operating in. Then you will be able to determine just how much of the profit is due to you. It is also recommended that you seek the services of an accountant or a lawyer who is better placed to explain just how much business profit you ought to receive at the end of trading period in a particular type of business.

At Gutglass, Erickson, Bonville & Larson, we understand the challenges of dealing with legal issues and we are here to help. Give us a call and we will be happy to answer all your questions. Call us today at (414) 273-1144.

Small Business Obligations for Maternity Leave Benefits

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As a small business owner, it’s crucial to be aware of the maternity leave benefits you should be providing for your staff. There are different laws that decide these benefits and how they should be provided to your staff that differ depending on several factors and do not apply to all small businesses.

Maternity Leave Laws

Family Medical Leave Act

Maternity LeaveUnder the Family and Medical Leave act, companies are obligated to offer unpaid, job guaranteed leave for families who have medical reasons under the group health insurance. A member of staff is required to take 12 workweeks of leave for the birth and care of child in the first year. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is only valid for companies that have more than 50 employees. This, therefore, cuts most small businesses out of the situation.

State Laws

Depending on where your business is located the state laws may offer different rights for pregnant women and regarding maternity leave. In California, the state provides disability payments for two thirds of a pregnant woman’s wages for approximately six to eight weeks. To find out what the laws are in your local area contact the state pregnancy, childbirth, and adoption leave statues.

General Leave Policies

If you are a small business and you are not covered by the FMLA Maternity Leave or state laws it’s important to ensure create a leave policy for your employees. Providing maternity leave allows your staff to enjoy the rights of having a child and can give a positive working environment and happier staff overall. On average 90% of workers return to work after taking maternity leave.

If you choose not to put a policy in place, it’s important to consider how long the employee has been working for you. The FMLA requires that a staff member works over 24 hours per week to be eligible, but state policies require no minimum. Policies can apply to both women and men of both adopted and blood children.

Preparing Staff for Cases of Maternity Leave

When it comes to preparing your business for staff taking leave, there are a few things to put into place to ensure your business continues to run smoothly:

  • Be sure to train up your staff to take on the extra work when you lose a member of staff on temporary, or more permanent leave. These steps will ensure a smooth and seamless transaction.
  • You could also consider cross training your staff to handle multiple jobs and tasks. That way once any of your staff members takes maternity leave business is not backed up with jobs that your other staff cannot handle.
  • Another option is to hire contractors and freelancers from outside. There are several companies that specialize in freelancers who can learn the job quickly and professionally, but may be a more expensive temporary solution.

However you choose to take care of maternity leave policies within your small business it’s important to be aware of the options and what laws apply to you as a business owner.

At Gutglass, Erickson, Bonville & Larson, we understand the challenges of dealing with legal issues for your business and we are here to help. Give us a call and we will be happy to answer all your questions. Call us today at (414) 273-1144.

How to Legally Change Your Business Name

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Change Your Business NameAfter being in a business for some time, you may ponder whether to change your business name to something which reflects your product, mission, and to appeal to your audience more accurately. Whatever the reason, changing your business name can be very costly if you have had the business for some time. Logos, stationery, business cards, advertisements, sales collateral, and many more items will have to be reproduced. It might also be beneficial to launch a campaign to market the new business name to your customers.

How to Change Your Business Name

All businesses follow similar steps when changing business names. However, every type of business legal entity possesses unique requirements. Limited liability companies have some requirements which differ from sole proprietorships. Therefore, before embarking on the journey of changing your business name, the steps below are critical. Most of the steps are required by law; however, others are just good business practices.

Business Name Change Checklist

Check trademark

Trademark infringements usually carry high costs for businesses. Before making a decision on a name, it is vital to utilize trademark search tools of U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to help you know whether a similar name, or its variation, is trademarked.

Check the available domain names

Before doing anything toward changing your business name, ensure you are able to claim it online. This can be easily achieved with a web search; however, it is also important to check if a web address or a complementary name is available. The WHOIS database can assist you with this. If the name you intend to use is available, claim it immediately.

Make your secretary of state aware

Before changing names in articles of associations, all types of businesses, except sole proprietorships, should inform their Secretary of State first. States usually have online forms for this activity and a small token must be paid. In this process, you will find out if the new business name you intend is already being used in your state by other partnerships or corporations. This can be achieved through online state databases of fictitious names or registered business names.

File another “Doing Business As” Name

If you have in the past filed a DBA (Doing Business As), with the local government in your area, you will have to repeat this procedure using your new business name.

Revise business permits and licenses

Check with your city, state, or county to determine the due process involved in obtaining or updating new business permits and licenses. A fee is also charged for this process.

Notify the tax authorities

Your state, local revenue agencies, and IRS will need to know the changes in your business name.

A new EIN may be vital

Generally, partnerships, corporations, and sole proprietorships do not require a new Employer Identification Number (EIN) when they change business names. However, some situations call for a new EIN; for instance if a single member takes over a business as a sole proprietorship, or if a partnership incorporates.

Update business contacts, agreements and documents

Besides making updates on your business materials, building your new brand, and notifying your clients, it is important to revisit and make updates on business lease documents, bank accounts, business loan paper works, and many other items to reflect the new name of your business.

At Gutglass, Erickson, Bonville & Larson, we understand the challenges of dealing with legal issues for your business and we are here to help. Give us a call and we will be happy to answer all your questions. Call us today at (414) 273-1144.

Social Media Policy for Your Small Business

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Social Media for Small BusinessWith social media, so many avenues of engagement and communication with clients are opened up. Social media includes blogging, and it is one of the biggest online sources of copyright violation. Blogging also falls under certain endorsement laws for products most have no idea about. Coming up with a social media policy for the protection of your employees and business is thus imperative. To help you come up with one, there are a number of considerations you should have in mind.

This also comes with a level of risk and a need for a social media policy. A good example is the fact that employees could be accessing social networks at work or posting things about the business on social media. Employees could also be slamming your competitors, and in some cases, infringing on copyright through posting user-generated images and content without any permission. One of the most important things is ensuring confidential information about the company is not being released.

Social Media for Your Small Business

The first place to start is with the firm’s employees. While you might allow them to access social networks at work, you have a choice to limit or control access. The law offers some guidance on the things you could restrict your workers from engaging in. With tablets, smart phones, and PCs providing access from just about anywhere, blocking employees from accessing social media might be difficult. Nonetheless, come up with a clear social media policy on instances when social media should be accessed while at work and whether employees will face any punishment if they abuse the laid out code of conduct.

In case you intend to permit social media access, make sure the policy guidelines developed outline your expectations on the area of sharing proprietary and confidential company information such as documents, videos, and photos. Since the laws are constantly changing, work with an attorney to certify you are complying with local, state, and federal laws on employment and social media.

Social Media & the Law

Social channels such as sharing images sites, social networking sites, and blogs are areas where intellectual property infringements take place. This is why your policy should detail the information that can or cannot be posted online by workers sharing on behalf of the company. For instance, if your company administrator on Facebook wants to use the product image of a manufacturer, confirm you have written permission from the manufacturer before posting, unless permission was granted beforehand.

Many small business owners reach social media administrators and bloggers to solicit endorsements, mentions, or reviews. Federal Trade Commission understands businesses offer freebies, cash, and other compensations to get these reviews and requires that the endorser clearly indicates in the post the mention, or review, was received in exchange with some form of compensation or fee. Also, if an employee has to promote a service or product on their blog or social network, disclosing any affiliation with your company is mandatory.

The most important thing in any social media policy is that it does not have to appear like a legal piece of writing. It should outline in simple terms how a company and its workers should be represented on social media. These policies will include how and when employees are to use social media, how to come up with a unique social media tone, and reminders that intellectual properties and customer service guidelines have to be respected, among others.

Expectations for respectful and courteous engagement on social media from the subscribers and followers can also be added in the social media policy, which is a great defense in case some offensive posts have to be removed.

At Gutglass, Erickson, Bonville & Larson, we understand the challenges of dealing with legal issues for your business and we are here to help. Give us a call and we will be happy to answer all your questions. Call us today at (414) 273-1144.

Starting a Small Business Legal Tips

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Starting a small business in the US is a wise idea, as these small enterprises are the backbone of the American economy. No matter how exciting a new venture may sound, it may also be quite a challenge to establish a small business. After a business type has been identified, a business plan determined, the location chosen, and how the business is financed, you will be faced with the legal aspect of your project.

Legal Aspect of Starting a Small Business

Starting a Small BusinessIn business, legal matters are high up the ladder of importance and priority. One of the first legal steps you may have to take is to establish the legal organization of your business; whether it is a sole ownership, corporation, partnership, cooperative, limited liability company, or even a non-profit enterprise.

Doing Business As (DBA)

Legally, before you set up your small business, you are required to register the ‘Doing Business As’ name. If the name you choose for your business is your name, with no addition whatsoever, you can skip this step, but for all other names that are not your name, you must register with the relevant authorities. This, in the US, is done through the state authorities. Note that it is not a requirement in all states to register a DBA.

Business Tax

Once your chosen name has been approved, you will then need a specific tax identification number. This is acquired from the IRS, and also the revenue agency at the state level. Local taxes are mandatory, but each state has its own tax obligations. Almost all states impose a business income tax, which depends on how your business is legally structured; whether a sole ownership, LLC, and so forth. There are also federal employment taxes that are paid by business owners to the state. All US states require payment of workers’ compensation insurance as well as unemployment insurance taxes. If your small business is located in one of the below states, payment for temporary disability insurance is obligatory:

• New York
• Puerto Rico
• Hawaii
• California
• New Jersey

Generally, it is important to know about business tax, general tax, workers’ compensation insurance, and unemployment insurance taxes when setting up any small business.

Permits

After successful registration and tax compliance, you may require permits and licenses for you small business. Most of the time, permits are required for business activities that fall under regulation by federal agencies. Some of these include businesses dealing with firearms, alcohol, import of animal or plant products across states, aircraft operations, wildlife activities, commercial fishing, and the like.

EIN

When an employer-employee state exists in your small business, you must comply with employer responsibilities and regulations. Before you hire any employee, you must have a valid Employment Identification Number (EIN) necessary for taxation reporting to the IRS. As a good employer, you must keep employment tax records for no less than 4 years. You must submit your employees’ federal income tax withholding forms to the IRS and annually present wages paid to the Social Security Administration.

Commercial Zoning

As a major rule, look into zoning regulations, environmental laws, building codes, and taxation when setting up a small business. Information pertaining to legal matters in business is available in state government offices and online on the US small business administration website, which is also run by the government.

At Gutglass, Erickson, Bonville & Larson, we understand the challenges of dealing with legal issues for your business and we are here to help. Give us a call and we will be happy to answer all your questions. Call us today at (414) 273-1144.

Email, Phone, and Social Media Monitoring in the Workplace

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privacy law - Social Media Monitoring in the WorkplaceThe question of email, phone, and social media monitoring in the workplace, along with employee monitoring, has to be carefully contemplated whenever enforcement is to be undertaken. Ensuring that proper security protocol has been properly established, and put in place, will give business owners the peace of mind that they require to set their focus in moving their enterprise forward. Employees, on the other hand, are the backbone of any enterprise if it is to succeed.

Email Monitoring

Employee monitoring can be undertaken by adapting an email protocol based on the company’s email domain. Since each employee is assigned an email address for business communication, the corresponding username and password is stored in the company’s server so that email traffic can be filtered and monitored for quality assurance. Most company IT administrators can configure workstations in a way that only company assigned client email is accessible and no third party webmail can be used. By implementing this strategy, personal privacy will not be an issue in most cases, as these are all work related email communications.

Phone Monitoring

Employee monitoring by phone does work pretty much the same as an email monitoring process. A business phone system, technically known as a private branch exchange (PBX), will host all incoming and outgoing calls. A system administrator is usually assigned in the monitoring and maintenance of it, and would have the ability to filter and redirect calls and volume traffic depending on the company’s policy. Mobile and personal phones however are much more challenging for administrators compared to landline management. A personal phone is being used for private communication and such is protected by existing law and cannot be violated. But phones nowadays are no longer just phones. They are an audio and video recording device, a camera, and a gadget that are capable of sending emails. Modern phones have become the perfect gadget for industrial espionage, and if not taken care, of will cause big problems to a small enterprise.

Social Media Monitoring

It is understandable that social media monitoring is needed for the betterment of everyone. For a large organization to be successful, reputable and hardworking employees are needed. However, multiple state laws are now banning employers from asking workers for their user names and passwords of their personal social media accounts, or requesting that workers login to social media, in an attempt to monitor their activities via shoulder surfing. Employers are allowed to retrieve worker information under certain circumstances but you should consult an attorney before attempting to do so.

At Gutglass, Erickson, Bonville & Larson, we understand the challenges of dealing with legal issues for your business and we are here to help. Give us a call and we will be happy to answer all your questions. Call us today at (414) 273-1144.