Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

New Hires

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Starting May 7, 2013, every employer will need to have all new employees sign  the new Form I-9 when verifying their employment eligibility.  Unlike with previous revisions, the Department of Homeland Security has stated that all prior editions of the I-9 are no longer acceptable.  The new I-9, which generally must be completed and signed by the new hire on the first day of the job, contains additional data fields, including foreign passport number and country of issuance, as well as optional data fields, including the new hire’s e-mail address and telephone number.

Employers failing to use the new I-9 face a civil penalty in an amount not less than $110 and not more than $1,100 for each violation.  While a single violation may not hurt your bottom line, the penalties can quickly rack up if you have multiple new hires.

When completing the form, employers need to remember that they must physically inspect the original identity and employment authorization documents presented by the new hire.  This duty to inspect, however, doesn’t mean that you suddenly need to be an expert on spotting a real driver’s license from a phony.  It just means that you need to look at the actual documents presented in good faith.  In fact, the law requires that you accept the verification documents if they reasonably appear on their face to be genuine and to relate to the person presenting them.  If you fail to do so, the new hire could claim that you’ve engaged in unlawful discrimination.

The new I-9 expires on March 31, 2016.  Consequently, the form should last for a while.  But it never hurts to review your employment forms annually to make sure that you’re using the most up-to-date forms.

Employing illegal workers

Monday, January 9th, 2012

At a minimum, all employers have to follow one simple law:  each employee must be legally authorized to work.  With an estimated 11.2 million unauthorized immigrants  in the U.S., chances are pretty good that you (a) know of an employer or (b) are, in fact, an employer that presently employs an illegal worker.  If you fall into the “b” category, you’d better be aware of the risks. In 2010, there were an estimated 190,000 unauthorized workers in Washington and 110,000 in Oregon. 

Despite the law, some employers choose to ignore it by thinking that it’s not a big deal or that there’s little chance of being caught.  And that, unfortunately, may have been exactly what an owner and manager of a popular restaurant in San Diego were thinking.  Last month, The French Gourmet, along with its owner and manager, were sentenced in federal court on charges that the business hired illegal workers.  The government alleged that the three defendants–business, owner, and manager–hired illegal workers between 2005 and 2008 and continued to employ them knowing they were unauthorized to work.  When the government raided the business in 2008, the business was employing eighteen illegal alien workers.

After the defendants pled guilty, the federal judge fined the business and owner jointly and severally for $396,575 and the manager for $2,500 for knowingly employing illegal workers.  Luckily, the judge spared the owner and manager up to six months of prison time by sentencing them to five and three years of supervised probation, respectively. 

This recent example should serve as a clear reminder to businesses, owners, and upper management that they need to follow the law by employing only legal workers.  By completing the required I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form for each employee, employers will not only be following the law, but will have the needed proof when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security conducts an inspection.   

Mandatory union poster put on hold

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Employers know, or at least should know, of the many mandatory notices they must post in the workplace.  These notices inform employees of their rights and responsibilities under the law, such as the state and federal minimum wages, Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), workers’ compensation, etc.  But one poster that private employers likely don’t know they may have to post is the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) poster.  This poster informs employees, including non-union employees, of their “right to organize and bargain collectively with their employers, and to engage in other protected concerted activity or to refrain from engaging in any of the above activity.”   

Originally, employers were required to post the NLRB poster on November 14, 2011, but the NLRB postponed the date to January 31, 2012.  However, because of on-going court challenges to the requirement, the NLRB just recently agreed to postpone the date to April 30, 2012.  Consequently, time will only tell if non-union employers, regardless of size, will need to prominently display the NLRB poster in the workplace along with the other legally required posters.

A Big Mac, large fries, and my vote?!

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Generally, employers maintain a cohesive work environment with their employees by following the simple rule of social etiquette at a party:  don’t talk about money, religion, and politics.  However, the endless political commercials, nonstop political chatter, and midterm stump speeches may have been just too much for one McDonald’s owner to keep his political views to himself.  

  

Recently, newspapers reported that earlier this month, the owner of a McDonald’s in Canton, Ohio, attached a pamphlet to the employees’ paychecks urging them to vote Republican candidates for governor, Senate, and Congress.  According to the reports, the pamphlet said: “If the right people are elected, we will be able to continue with raises and benefits at or above the current levels. If others are elected, we will not.”   It then named three Republican candidates after stating, “The following candidates are the ones we believe will help our business move forward.” The only problem is that it’s illegal for an employer in Ohio to attempt to influence the political votes of employees.  However, the political frenzy of the midterm elections isn’t limited to Ohio. 

  

Here in the Pacific Northwest, some grocery employees of Fred Meyer and Safeway recently complained about having to distribute flyers in favor of Washington’s ballot initiative 1100, which would have allowed grocery stores to sell hard liquor.  While there’s no specific prohibition in Washington, Oregon recently enacted ORS 659.785, which prohibits an employer from taking, or threatening to take, any adverse employment action against an employee for declining to attend or participate in an employer-related political or religious meeting or communication.  The statute also requires employers to post a notice at the worksite advising employees of their rights under the new law.  Of course, the statute doesn’t prohibit an employer from engaging in political or religious activities where attendance or participation is strictly voluntary. 

 

Therefore, if you’re an employer that’s a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Tea Partier, Green Partier, or an Independent, be smart:   don’t force employees to participate in any religious or political activity.  You’ll be happier and so will your employees.  Yes, the midterm elections are over, but before you know it, the 2012 political organizations will be in full-swing creating a compelling campaign of slogans, speeches, and sound bites.

 

 

New Business

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Starting your own business during this prolonged recession may seem counterintuitive, but for others, the turbulent economy is just the right spark to ignite the entrepreneurial spirit.  Whether you’re business idea involves a new computer software, selling ice cream, or creating a production company, starting your own business requires careful planning and a lot of hard work.

After working on your business plan, analyzing the risks and rewards, strengths and weaknesses, and figuring out how you’ll finance your business, one important decision you’ll need to make is to decide which business structure best suits your plans:  S-corporation, C-corporation, Limited Liability Company, partnership, sole proprietor? 

Each type of entity has its particular requirements and restrictions, as well as advantages and disadvantages.  For example, if one of the owners of the new business will be another corporation, then an S-corporation will not be appropriate.   If the business will own real property, then an LLC may be attractive because of possible tax benefits.  And if there are multiple owners, you will need to think about agreements that deal with how to handle any future transfer of ownership.

Besides issues of entity formation, business owners needs to think about other important legal issues from the outset, including, but not limited to, commercial leases, vendor agreements, obtaining required licenses and permits, copyright and trademark issues, and, of course, hiring and firing employees.     

Without receiving sound legal advice upfront, business owners may soon find themselves besieged with unanticipated problems.  Instead of spending time growing their business, they may find themselves struggling with penalties and fines from government agencies, competition from copycat businesses, and lawsuits from disgruntled former employees.   

However, with a great business plan, solid legal advice, elbow grease, and a bit of luck, entrepreneurs can focuse on executing their business plan, rather than getting bogged down with costly distractions.  As Benjamin Franklin noted, “Remember that time is money.”  And, even in this economy, there’s no better time than the present.