Business Laws That Small Businesses Should Worry About

Suffice to say it would take several volumes to include all of the laws that pertain to business, particularly if you start including state, city and county laws. There are thousands of business laws on the books, some of which are relevant to your business and others that are antiquated and have not been enforced since the 1920’s. No one, including your local law enforcement agencies, department knows all of them. However, it is important that you know the laws most likely to affect your business. Here are some of the categories of laws with which you should familiarize yourself. (Most of these laws are discussed in more detail in other sections of this book.)

  • Employment Laws, includes laws regarding: hiring and firing of employees, overtime pay, child-labor, disability, worker’s compensation, unemployment, employee rights, employee safety and discrimination.
  • Tax laws including laws pertaining to the filing of tax returns and payment of: sales tax, withholding taxes, corporate taxes, pass through taxes and both state and local taxes.
  • Business formation laws including those pertaining to the specific business structure you have selected.
  • Environmental laws, including recycling laws and the discharge of hazardous waste materials.
  • Trademark and patent laws, plus all other such laws pertaining to ownership, inventions and/or intellectual property rights.
  • Consumer protection laws against fraud or unfair business or advertising practices.
  • Zoning laws, which typically include local ordinances that regulate: parking, advertising and signage, use of the land surrounding the business and even the type of business that is allowed to be conducted in a specific area.

    These are just some of the significant legal categories under which you will find laws that affect most businesses. In addition, laws may pertain to the type of activity involved. If, for example, you are selling shares of stock you will need to adhere to securities laws and if you are operating a business that sells liquor you will need to adhere to the state alcohol laws. State laws may also dictate how contracts and legal documents will be written and enforced.

    Just as you put together a business plan, you need to approach the legal aspect of a business in a systematic manner. Begin with the laws pertaining to the basics of starting a business. Do you need a business license? A permit? What laws pertain to opening a business in your state, city or county? Are you planning to hire employees? Will you be selling goods and therefore charging sales tax? Analyze each aspect of your business.

    If you are in business for yourself, for example, you won’t need to familiarize yourself with employee laws until you are ready to hire additional staffers. Likewise, if you are in a service business, you typically won’t need to familiarize yourself with removal of hazardous waste. Review applicable laws in advance for each aspect of your business as you see it unfolding. Also, review all potential significant legal matters with your attorney. Ask questions and do not assume something is legal because it is common practice among other business owners.

    If you should find yourself in violation of a law, take immediate steps to rectify the situation. Depending on the severity of the law, you may only receive a warning or a small fine from the local authorities. Typically, you will be given a time frame in which to make the appropriate corrections.

    Zoning laws can often frustrate a new business owner. While you may be legally allowed to open a specific type of business in the zoned area, you will often discover that these laws affect how you may conduct your business.

    It is important to take some time to familiarize yourself with all municipal, commercial and/or industrial zoning laws that could pertain to your business and ask questions of the local Chamber of Commerce and/or other business owners to make sure you are adhering to the details.