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Cincinnati Business and Commercial Litigation Legal Blog

Creating an anti-discrimination policy for your employee handbook

When you started your small business, it may have just been you and perhaps a family member or close friend helping you out. As your business grows, you decide you need to hire employees to take some of the burden off you. This is most likely a good strategy to keep your business viable and growing, but when you take on employees, you also take on certain responsibilities.

Part of your job as an employer is to make sure the work environment is free from discrimination, harassment and retaliation. Even if you start with only one employee, you may want to put together an employee handbook since even one employee receives legal protections under federal and Ohio law.

How do you plan for simultaneous family member deaths?

If you and your spouse are pondering how you're going to develop your estate plan ahead of retaining an attorney, you may picture your assets being handed down in a fairly linear fashion. When one of you dies, the other one gets everything. When they die, your children will inherit everything. If you don't have children, maybe you decide that your assets will go to your favorite nonprofit organization or the college where you met decade ago.

However, what if the two of you are killed in a plane crash, car accident or you both perish from a carbon monoxide leak in your home? These tragedies happen all the time.

Are you ready to sue someone for breach of contract?

If you are dealing with a contract dispute with a client, vendor or another business, you are not alone. Small business owners deal with such disputes frequently, and they can be a frustrating drain on your time and resources. If another party is not honoring the terms of your contract, you may feel uncertain about the most efficient and effective way to handle the situation.

Unfortunately, it is not always easy to get the other party to see your point of view. Perhaps there is a misinterpretation of the terms of the contract, or the other party is withholding its completion of the terms because he or she feels you have not met your share of the agreement. Whatever the situation, you may find yourself facing a legal battle to reach a satisfactory resolution.

Businesses can be liable for injuries on 'attractive nuisances'

If you're like many business owners, you want to make your property attractive for employees, customers and anyone passing by. You may have installed a large water fountain or fishpond in your patio area a sweeping outdoor stairwell leading to a rooftop break area where people can read, relax or even have outdoor meetings.

However, what if a group of children found any or all of these features impossible to resist, came on to your property and one of them was injured? You might think you're not liable because they were trespassing. However, the court may determine that you had an "attractive nuisance" that makes you legally responsible.

Why can businesses be held liable for their employees' actions?

As a business owner, you can often be held liable for your employees' actions -- even if you had no direct involvement in them. Just as you benefit from your employees' ideas, expertise and/or physical labor, you also may have to bear some responsibility if they cause harm to others.

When one employee injures another one, for example, the courts allow typically allow the victim to sue the employer as well as the person who harmed them so that they can recover the compensation they're seeking. The legal doctrine "respondeat superior" allows employers to be held vicariously liable for harm caused -- intentionally or not -- by their employees.

Members of Congress seek to make the CROWN Act federal law

Laws aimed at preventing workplace discrimination based on hairstyle or hair texture are becoming more common across the country. New York, California and, most recently, New Jersey, have enacted versions of what's known as the CROWN Act. It stands for "Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair." Cincinnati is one of the localities with such an ordinance.

Now some lawmakers in Congress are working to make the CROWN Act a federal law. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker has introduced a CROWN Act bill in the Senate. Four members of the House of Representatives, including Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio, have introduced a similar bill in their chamber.

Ohio court throws out lawsuit about power surcharge

How many laws can affect an Ohio business? The answer is not a number because it is changing all the time. Sometimes, new laws are made to cover a new area of business, and judges are making decisions that can be considered precedents for new ones all the time as well.

An energy company operating nuclear power plants in the Buckeye State recently filed a lawsuit regarding a new law imposing a surcharge on power customers. Opponents of the bill argued that the law, known as H.B. 6, should be put to a voter referendum.

Pay attention to parking provisions before you sign that lease

When business owners are reviewing or negotiating the terms of a lease with a property owner, they don't always give sufficient attention to parking provisions. However, parking can make the difference between customers choosing your business or going somewhere else.

You also want to provide safe, convenient parking for your employees. If you're sharing a shopping center or office building with multiple leasees, each one has a stake in having access to the most convenient parking possible.

How to avoid common employee-related legal issues

If you're in the process of starting a business, you probably know that one lawsuit can seriously impact your bottom line -- and possibly even put you out of business. Many of these lawsuits can be avoided by following the law and having processes in place to deal with issues before they end up in court. That's why it's essential to have experienced legal guidance from the beginning.

Some of the leading causes of legal problems for small businesses involve employee issues. Let's look at a few of them.

Okay, Boomer: What employers need to know about ageism

The phrase, "Okay, Boomer" has become a joking way to refer to someone who seems out of touch, stuck in the past or just, well, older.

Except jokes are supposed to be funny to everybody. Jokes that negatively reference and target the aging part of the population are bound to rile a few people in that population -- and justifiably so. But jokes about age aren't just inappropriate; they can also open your company up to accusations of age discrimination. If you have heard the phrase "Okay, Boomer" rattling around your office, it's time to put a stop to it.

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