Unfortunately in today's business world, it is only a matter of time before your company is sued by someone or investigated by some governmental agency. However, you can lesson the odds by understanding and identifying the most common legal problems that could come your way and protecting your company against them.
1. Criminal Investigation
State and federal law enforcement and governmental agencies proliferate with each passing day. Depending on your industry, you could be regulated by as many as ten agencies, not counting the normal and customary policing departments. The power of government agencies is blinding. Recently, a trend has emerged targeting more and more businesses, executives and owners for investigation and prosecution. It has become so prevalent that all companies should focus considerable effort toward insulating their owners, employees and operations from risk.
Adopting a policy that your company will cooperate in all government inquiries and investigations with the assistance and counsel of an experienced criminal law attorney is the best way to insulate you and your employees from waiving your rights or creating more risk. Educate yourself and your employees on your constitutional rights and what procedures to follow with the advice of a criminal law specialist or attorney familiar with this trend and danger.
2. Employee Lawsuit
Employment law is the new lottery for Plaintiffs' lawyers who have watched tort reform narrow their playing fields. For every perceived harm - real or imagined, there is a creative lawsuit waiting to be filed. Sexual harassment, age discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, racial discrimination, gender discrimination, disability discrimination, wrongful termination, retaliation, and injuries, are only some of the fertile ground for disgruntled employees.
Clear and thorough employee rules and policies are the first area of defense against this kind of legal threat. Develop an employee manual and document employee files. Treat all employees with respect and with equality and consistency. Engage a business or employment lawyer to review your policies and rules.
3. Cyber Issues
With the move of all businesses toward more and more dependence on technology and the use of internet communications and resources, cyber legal issues grow exponentially every day in ways that are just beginning to be understood and anticipated.
Specific rules and policies regarding employee computer usage, privacy and access are critical in today's business. Adopt, revise, review or amend your policies and rules as soon as possible. Neglecting this area of legal threat is just asking for trouble.
4. Marital and Divorce Issues
If you are married or if any of your fellow owners or partners are married, significant risk exists in the divorce arena should any marriage fail.
Contractual protections in your entity documents or business agreements should address these risks so that you can continue conducting business regardless of someone's divorce claims and proceedings. Marital property agreements can also provide additional insulation from this threat.
5. Business Contract Lawsuits
Attorneys' fees and expenses can wreck your bottom line and distract you and your employees from your core business operations. Your goal should be to utilize contractual provisions to minimize the chance of being sued or having to sue third parties with whom you do business.
With the appropriate contractual clauses, you can avoid being drug into a courtroom by requiring arbitration, choose the state in which you will be sued or in which the arbitration will be conducted, limit damages, and require that the loser pay the costs of dispute resolution. Many more advantages can be built into contracts in order to give you control over the legal process.
All business owners and executives have the obligation and duty to their employees, shareholders, partners and families to insulate and protect their companies and operations from the legal threats that haunt businesses. By understanding the threats and risks, and by taking proactive measures to prevent lawsuits and legal disasters, you can control your own legal destiny and win the advantage in any future legal battles.