Like every year, 2012 has been a busy year for small business owners. And like every year, the end of the year is a good time to reflect on small business lessons learned.
You may have had a relatively smooth year and avoided legal troubles. But the same can't be said for all your business owning cohorts.
Here are five of the most popular legal lessons that we covered in this blog in 2012, which every small business owner can benefit from:
- Do you have to give bereavement leave? While there is no federal law that demands it, many states and localities may require giving leave to employees to attend to funerals and make arrangements for the death of a loved one. Additionally, if you provide for bereavement leave in a handbook or policy, you'd better make sure you stick with it, or risk a potential breach-of-contract claim.
- Can you enforce a dress code? Sure you can. Just make sure the policy is not discriminatory, don't single out any group like women or people of color, and make the policy flexible enough to accommodate disabilities and religious beliefs.
- Has employee theft surpassed shoplifting? Don't look now, but the biggest threat of theft to your business isn't gangs of roving thieves. Instead, most thieves are your own employees. Have a plan of attack to deal with employee theft.
- Will the IRS come after me? The IRS has stated that it will step up audits of small businesses. The agency will be looking for under-reporting and "oversights" amounting to about $400 billion. Know the seven areas that the IRS frequently targets, and make sure your business complies with all relevant tax laws.
- Can you cut employee pay? We are still slowly recovering from a recession, and you may have considered cutting employee pay. This is generally allowed, but just make sure you follow a few rules.
When you are evaluating your leave-of-absence policies, dress code policies, or any other policy affecting the workplace, you may want to talk to an employment attorney. An employment attorney can point out areas that may lead to legal liability and help you draft a policy that meets your goals while staying on the right side of the law.
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