Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

By Bradley Hunt, Attorney at Law There have been several high profile claims of workplace sexual harassment in the news lately, most recently with a claim by a former engineer at Uber that her manager sexually harassed her. Claims of sexual harassment must be taken very seriously by employers, who can be held accountable if the behavior of a harasser is ignored. In the case of Uber, the CEO just hired a third-party to investigate the claims. What is Sexual Harassment? According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), “It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex.” The law does not consider occasional teasing or single incidents that are not serious to be harassment, although employers must be aware that behavior that escalates may quickly jump into this category. Behavior becomes harassment when it creates a “hostile or offensive” work environment or results in the victim being fired, demoted or believing he or she has no recourse but to quit the job. It is important to note that both men and women can be victims of sexual harassment, and the harasser may be a manager, coworker, someone else within the company, the employee of a vendor or supplier, or even a client. The law not only protects victims of harassment, but also protects third parties who are...
7 Ways You Know You’re Ready to Start Your Own Business

7 Ways You Know You’re Ready to Start Your Own Business

How often do you think about starting your own business? When you consider starting a business, is your first thought that you’re not ready or it’s not the right time? So how do you know when it is time to start that business and become an entrepreneur? Here are some clues you might be ready to be your own boss: You have done your research and understand the pros and cons of becoming an entrepreneur. This includes talking to other business owners and developing best case – average – and worst case financial scenarios. You should also look at funding options to begin your journey. You have investigated the best choice to set up your new business and understand the short and long term pros and cons of each. Each form of business – a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, corporation, non-profit, etc. – has different benefits and legal requirements. It’s also important to consider shareholder/member buy-out agreements to govern the transfer of ownership in the future. Your family and friends are ready to support your endeavor. You can start a business without a support network, but it’s much harder. You have talked with a small business organization like SCORE or visited your local community college Small Business Center for input and direction. It doesn’t hurt to find a mentor and learn from that person. You have a game plan that includes your goals for the business and for yourself. You have worked with someone to help you identify and address areas of risk in the market(s) and industry your business will serve. You are passionate about the business/industry/cause you’ll...
Do I Need a Buy-Sell Agreement?

Do I Need a Buy-Sell Agreement?

By Bradley Hunt, Attorney at Law What is a Buy-Sell Agreement? If you share ownership of a business, you need a buy-sell agreement. Buy-sell agreements are not written when you are buying or selling a company; rather, they outline the rules under which an owner may sell (or be forced to sell) his or her share of the business. They also cover the disposition of this share of the business if the partner is divorcing, files bankruptcy, retires, becomes incapacitated, dies, or fails to meet an obligation to the business. Any of these triggering events may activate the terms of the buy-sell agreement. These agreements can be especially important in family owned businesses as protection for all parties involved. How does a buy-sell agreement work? The buy-sell agreement defines the terms and conditions that will govern transfer of ownership of an owner’s share of the business. In a partnership with three principals where one decides to retire and sell his share, for example, the two remaining partners would be notified of the exiting partner’s intent to sell. They would then be given the first option to purchase this share of the business back. In most cases, the share would be offered with an equal split to the existing partners. The agreement protects the remaining partners by preventing the third partner from selling their share to an outside party or even a competitor. If the third partner has died, the heir(s) may choose to keep the business but must typically abide by the terms of the buy-sell agreement should they wish to sell their share. The selling price is usually...
Americans with Disabilities Act and Hiring

Americans with Disabilities Act and Hiring

If you hire employees, you must be aware of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is a federal civil rights law designed to remove barriers preventing qualified individuals with disabilities from enjoying the same opportunities that are available to persons without disabilities. The rules apply to private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions with 15 or more employees. The ADA prohibits discrimination in all employment practices, including job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, training, and other terms, conditions and privileges of employment. The ADA rules apply when an individual has a disability eligible for protections under the law AND that individual is qualified to perform the essential functions of the job (these are duties that are fundamental to the job). What is the definition of a disability? ADA defines disability (sometimes referred to as “substantially limiting conditions”) as: a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; OR a person with a record of such an impairment; OR a person who is regarded as having such an impairment. Specific examples of substantially limiting conditions may include: Mobility impairments due to missing limbs or other disorders Cancer Diabetes Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection Transitory impairments such as epilepsy Major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia Who is not covered by the ADA? Current users of illegal drugs (employers may conduct drug testing for illegal drugs) Transgender, homosexual, and bisexual individuals Those who have the conditions of compulsive gambling, kleptomania, or pyromania People who pose a direct threat Are you are in compliance...
Legal Challenges When Hiring Family Members

Legal Challenges When Hiring Family Members

By Bradley S. Hunt, Attorney Family business ventures can be tricky. When the business partners all get along and agree on how to run the business, things can go very smoothly. But when there is dissent, the situation can become very personal. What happens when the disagreement leads to more than a refusal to speak to each other over Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma’s? There are some practical challenges within any family business: Will the business close for a week while the family vacations together? Who will be the CEO, and will the other person’s feelings be hurt? Will everyone contribute the same number of hours of effort? Will the kids want to be part of the business? If they do, will they be qualified to run the company? The list goes on. Above and beyond the practical considerations, there are some common legal issues you should consider: The operative word is business. It’s important that your family business (like any other) be set up as a legal entity, complete with a separate financial structure. Whether you choose to set up a partnership, LLC or incorporate, everything should be in the form of a legal agreement to protect each of the owners individually. I recommend you have a “buy sell agreement” in place. This could be part of the operating agreement and would apply in the event that the owners of the business are in a deadlock and cannot agree on how the business should continue to operate. Buy sell agreements also usually include a method on how to value the business and can guide the parties on the process...
3 Reasons to Use an LLC to Form Your Business

3 Reasons to Use an LLC to Form Your Business

Starting a new business can be exciting and a bit daunting. Should you form an LLC? Incorporate? Borrow money to get started? Lease office space? Bring on a partner? There are many decisions you must make up front, some of which can have long-term implications. One of the most important decisions you will make relates to the structure of your business. Many individuals begin their small business as the sole “employee,” reporting their earnings as income on their personal tax returns without creating a formal structure to minimize their personal liability. Others immediately incorporate without considering the strict reporting required by the government. A limited liability company (LLC) falls in between these two options, giving business owners some protection while requiring less stringent (and time consuming) reporting. Here are three reasons you might choose an LLC to form your business: An LLC, as the name suggests, limits the liability of the owners. Individuals who operate a business without any formal structure are personally responsible for the debts of the business. This means another party could get a judgment against you personally and potentially collect it by going after your assets (bank accounts, personal property, etc.) Under an LLC, the assets and liabilities are owned by the company. While incorporating your business also limits your personal liability, corporations have specific requirements for reporting that must be filed with the state and/or federal governments. The requirements for an LLC are less rigid. In addition, corporations must name officers and have a board of directors. The “members” of an LLC must have a registered agent, but they can divide management responsibilities as...