Employment classifications...probably not the most exciting section of your employee handbook. But how you classify the people who work for your small business or nonprofit impacts everything from tax withholdings to access to benefits and even which employment laws apply to which workers. Whether you are new to putting together employment policies, or it’s time to dust off and update some old policies, there are some common mistakes we see employers make when it comes to employment classifications. This week, we continue our series on Essential HR Policies by looking at employment classifications--what are they, why do they matter, and what are some common mistakes to avoid?
A nonprofit’s bylaws serve as the governing document for the organization. This important document dictates how decisions are made within the organization. We frequently get questions from both newer nonprofit organizations (How do I put together the bylaws?) as well as more established nonprofits (I’m not sure we’re following the bylaws. How do we update or fix our bylaws?)
Trademark Modernization Act of 2020
Buried in the last round of COVID relief legislation were some major changes in the area of intellectual property law that will impact both trademarks and copyrights. This week we’re reviewing the Trademark Modernization Act of 2020 and how it might impact small businesses in particular.
The Trademark Modernization Act of 2020 (TMA) makes several updates to trademark law. But for our small business clients, we think there is one major change in particular that you should be aware of. The law has the potential to make it much easier for your competitors to challenge your trademark registration, even several years after the fact.
Forming a business entity like an LLC or a corporation typically provides limited liability protection to the owners. But in certain situations, you can find yourself personally on the hook for the debts and obligations of the business. This week we’re discussing the legal concept of “piercing the corporate veil” and why it’s used so often against small business owners.
In the midst of an ongoing pandemic and all of the questions it’s raised for employers, especially small business employers,* you may have missed a new Ohio employment law that’s about to take effect. The governor recently signed the Employment Law Uniformity Act into law. As an employer, what do you need to know about this new law? What steps should you take to protect your business or nonprofit in light of these changes?
Trademark infringement is the unauthorized use of a trademark on or in connection with goods and/or services in a manner that is likely to cause confusion, deception, or mistake about the source of the goods and/or services. But what does this mean for your small business? How can you avoid receiving a nasty cease and desist letter accusing you of infringing someone else’s trademark? And how much can a trademark mistake cost you?
If you’ve worked hard to build your client or customer base, or even put significant time and effort into training your employees or recruiting the right subcontractors, you probably want to protect that investment. Non-solicitation agreements are typically used by businesses of all sizes to ensure that their employees and subcontractors will not solicit (or run off with) the company’s customers, clients, or even other employees or contractors that the company has worked so hard to find and develop in the first place.
Hiring employees is often an exciting time for small businesses and nonprofits. But not every new hire will turn out to be a great fit for your organization. Perhaps an employee’s performance simply isn’t up to par. Or an employee commits a major violation of some company policy. Or maybe an employee keeps repeating the same relatively minor infraction over and over again (like spending a little too much time texting while working). Regardless of the size of your business, at some point, managing people means having some tough conversations.
Perhaps you’ve already tried dropping not-so-subtle hints to get an employee back on track. When less formal measures don’t seem to be working, it’s time to turn to more formal disciplinary policies and procedures for addressing employee misconduct. Your employee disciplinary policy is not about becoming a stereotypical corporate overlord and ruining the collegial environment that makes working for a small businesses or nonprofit so appealing. Instead, having a formal disciplinary policy is all about maintaining your organization’s standards in a way that is fair and maintains morale, all without getting you and your company into legal trouble.
Running a nonprofit organization can be quite different from running a for profit business. Instead of a single owner(s) who can largely do whatever they like, you have a board of directors to answer to, extensive oversight from the IRS and Ohio Attorney General, not to mention keeping both donors and grant funders happy. And this wide array of stakeholders means your nonprofit needs good governance policies in place to prevent problems before the organization’s tax-exempt status is threatened.
We’ve talked before about the importance of conducting a thorough trademark search before launching a brand name or logo or slogan. You might be surprised to learn about similar trademarks that are already in use. You might learn that your proposed trademark would be considered relatively weak. Even if trademark registration simply isn’t in the budget yet or a federal registration doesn’t make sense for other reasons, you still need to know what trademarks your competitors are already using.
Whatever the reason for not moving forward with a trademark registration, that still leaves an important question—What rights do you have if you don’t or can’t register your trademark? Is there anything you can do to protect your unregistered trademark?