Running a business with employees, especially one with premises automatically grants you a duty of care to your staff. As an employer, you expect a certain level of professionalism from all of your staff members as much as they expect it from you and for their safety to be in your best interests.
But even the best employers and businesses run into legal issues from time to time, whether right or wrong, and even in 2021 businesses still face some of the same legal issues that have been around for a long time:
- IP Theft
- Health and Safety Issues
- Discrimination or Harassment
Many businesses, especially successful ones, are often accused of stealing something from another entity such as a logo, a product idea, or even a name while employees claiming accidents at work have never been higher. Discrimination and harassment is still an issue for employers and great care should be taken to protect everyone involved.
Know Your Property
A developed piece of material work such as a patent, trademark, copyrighted work, or even a trade secret such as a manufacturing process (think Coca Cola) is known as intellectual property. That is a property that isn’t grounded in the physical world such as a car or a house but one that has been creatively generated.
Claims concerning IP happen all the time and many bigger cases include those against songwriters, patent holders, and manufacturers. Pop superstar Madonna famously lost a case against a Belgian songwriter over her hit song ‘Frozen’ while Nintendo narrowly won a case over a patent concerning how a user input device (controller) handles shared data streams.
You can initially protect your IP by identifying it, securing it, and labeling it as such with the use of official company logos, which are themselves IP. But the range of issues concerning IP is very broad and is governed by a complex set of rules so the best advice would be to contact a business law attorney should you find yourself worried about infringement or if a claim has been made against you.
Duty of Care
Business establishments of all kinds are deemed reasonably responsible for the wellbeing of everyone directly associated with them. You may have heard of people claiming accidents at work because of negligent safety measures and receiving large payouts. This happens all the time and for the most part, these could have been avoided.
Protection from claims of this nature is essential to a business as while some may be genuine, there is a culture of falsely claiming injury towards organizations which has led to some businesses becoming overly cautious, such as McDonald’s and their rigorous labeling of hot products. The cost of a successful claim against you could potentially run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, which for most companies would be unsustainable and could lead to loss of jobs, decreased productivity, or closure.
The best thing to secure against these kinds of claims is to actually develop strict health and safety procedures. Ensure all your staff are fitted with any safety gear they need and have been trained to use them, label and mark safety concerned areas of a building, and reasonably discipline staff members who don’t follow safety guidelines. Do all that you can do to adequately profess that any claim against your health and safety standards is due to the claimant and not yourself.
Everyone is Equal
The last few years have seen very high profile cases against celebrities such as Harvey Weinstein but what of claims of discrimination or harassment against companies. Well, it does happen. Recently, Viacom, the parent company of CBS, has had to suspend two executives over claims that they created a hostile work environment for women and people of color.
It boggles the mind to think that this kind of behavior still happens in this day and age, especially from grown and professional men, but the sad fact is that year on year, the US Equal Employment Opportunites Commission (EEOC) hears over 100,000 cases of discrimination in the workplace.
It would be a very sad day indeed for any business owner to hear that staff members are being discriminated against, for any reason, so you should go out of your way to educate all staff about issues of discrimination whether it’s racial, gender, religion or disability related. Proactively enforcing a “Not Safe for Work” campaign can help since everyone is going to have different beliefs and conflicting personalities, but they should be left at home and aren’t welcome in the workplace.
Related content from StrategyDriven