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Category Archives:

Business

Human Resources: The Basics for a Small Business

The often-murky area of human resources generally consists of laws and regulations, which is probably part of the reason many small businesses often put off dealing with it. Avoidance is not the answer. Steer clear of legal hot water and potential employee claims with by keeping a close eye on these three HR areas.

1. Employee Files

Federal law clearly states that employers must keep three specific files for each employee in your business. These files are:

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Trade Secret Theft and Your Small Business

With all the attention in the news about hacked emails, we thought it would be a good time to discuss the reality of hacking at a level many business owners can relate to: the small business.

As we have discussed before, small businesses are at risk of any of the threats a large corporation faces, including identity theft (read more on how to prevent ID theft at your business here). Do you have a plan for preventing and/or responding to an online security breach? Or, equally as important, trade secret theft?

Trade secret theft can bankrupt even the most successful business. What’s more, because a California trade secret plaintiff (such as a former employer suing its former employee) likely must identify its trade secrets with reasonable particularity before commencing discovery, it pays to invest in protecting your IP before it is stolen. Unfortunately, trade secrets are particularly susceptible to theft because of the secret economically valuable information they contain. Those on the inside may find that information too tempting to be leave behind when changing jobs. So how does a small business protect its intellectual property and confidential information from trade secret theft?

In California, obtaining protection is not all that simple. Absent limited exceptions, non-compete agreements are illegal under Business and Professions Code § 16600, meaning that is likely not an option.

So, what can California employers do?

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Financial Planning for Your Small Business

Starting a new business used to be a costly, time-consuming venture. Thanks to technology, that does no longer has to be the case. Various websites allow you to form your small business online (although we do encourage you to discuss the best corporate structure for your business with an attorney first) and thanks to incubators like Kickstarter, you can easily raise capital outside your circle of friends and family!

Once your business is formed, getting things up and running is also much easier. For example, do-it-yourself website design platforms like SquareSpace allow you to design your own website (a must for any business). Cost-effective cloud-based software programs allow you to manage tasks that once required employees on the payroll, and credit card processing can be run inexpensively on a tablet or a smartphone. Read on for tips on how to get the funds you will need to get your business of the ground.

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5 Tips to Stretch Your Startup Capital

You’re starting a new business. Like many entrepreneurs, you probably need to be conscious about how, where, and when you spend your start up money. You’re not alone. Indeed, of the biggest challenges many new businesses face is ensuring they don’t burn through their startup piggy bank too fast.

How do you avoid burning through your find? To start, self-fund through cash flow as long as you can. If you must raise outside money, try to make each round of capital last at least eighteen months.

Read on for more some strategies…

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Choosing a Business Structure that Protects Personal Finances

When a small business takes a turn for the worse, the outcome could be disastrous for your personal finances. Unless you’ve chosen a business structure to protect you.

As opposed to DBAs, or doing business as, the owners of limited liability companies, limited partnerships, and corporations are generally only liable up to the amount they invested in the business. Creditors and plaintiffs can’t go after the owners’ personal assets. This means that your home / car / art collection could be safe.

If protecting your personal finances is of interested to you, you will need to chose which legal structure is right for you. An experienced business attorney can help you decide and look at the various factors, including taxes. For example, are taxes paid before or after profits are distributed to owners? How does selling the business potentially affect them? Knowing the answers to these questions are important, as switching business structures down the road can be a challenge.

Limited and limited liability partnerships.

A limited partnership is a pass-through entity — all profits, losses, credits, and deductions flow through to each member’s individual tax return.  With a limited partnership, only owners with active control of the business, known as general partners, are liable. Limited partners, those who have only put up capital and stay out of company affairs, have liability protection.

In a limited liability partnership, all partners generally share management responsibility and have liability protection. Many professional practices, such as doctors, lawyers, and accountants, form LLCs.

C Corporation.

Often used with companies that intend to go public, with a C-Corp, there is no limit on the number of C-corp shareholders, each of whom can normally trade that stock freely.

S Corporation.1441784200_20

An S-Corp is a pass-through entity and avoids the double tax bite, like the LLP. One S-Corp advantage is that it’s easier for owners to sell the business outright and yet the S-Corp retains some of the features that make a corporation attractive (liability protection, freely traded shares, and the distinction between profit and wages)..)

Limited liability company.

Like an S-corp, an LLC combines the pass-through nature of a partnership with the corporation’s liability protection. However, an LLC is much more flexible than an S-corp. An LLC can also set its own terms for distributing income among members–unlike a corporation, it doesn’t have to treat all investors equally.

For more information on which business structure is the ideal choice for your small business, contact the experienced attorneys at Hart, Watters & Carter today.

 

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Understanding CA’s Unfair Competition Law

California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL) is a significant source of business litigation in the state. UCL claims are commonly brought in California class actions, and can result in significant financial losses for California businesses and huge wins for class plaintiffs.   It is therefore important that companies understand both the protections and liabilities associated with California’s Unfair Competition Law when engaging in business in the state of California.

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California’s “Auto-Renewal” Law

In an increasingly technology-driven world, Los Angeles businesses are relying more than ever on automated processes to streamline the efficiency of operations.  However, along with the advantages of technology can come pitfalls.  Businesses must be increasingly prudent in ensuring that they are complying with the state and federal rules that govern their online presence and operations in the technological realm.

One such regulation is California’s “Auto-Renewal Law”, which is aimed at preventing businesses from collecting ongoing fees from customers without their consent.  The law applies broadly and extends not only to subscriptions such as magazines, but to online services like music and online television and movie streaming.  The Auto Renewal Law requires any automatic renewal terms to be presented in a clear and conspicuous manner to the potential consumer.  Additionally, prospective consumers must consent to the auto-subscription program prior to the subscription being filled.  Lastly, businesses may not make charges to a consumer’s account until they have obtained consent to auto-renewal provisions, and businesses must provide an easy to use way for consumers to cancel any auto-renewed subscription.

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Seasonal Employees and the ACA

The determination of which employees are seasonal employees has taken on new significance for “applicable large employers” (ALEs) due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). An ALE is “an employer who averaged at least 50 full-time employees (including full-time equivalent employees (FTEs)) on business days during the preceding calendar year.” For purposes of group health plan eligibility, the ACA’s measurement method rules allow employers to treat full-time seasonal employees differently from full-time non-seasonal employees. Misclassifying employees as seasonal employees may result in penalties for an ALE.

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Seasonal Workers and the ACA

Summer is officially over and the holiday season will be up on us before we know it. For many business owners, the holidays are the busiest time of the year and the demand for seasonal workers jumps dramatically. However, as with any type of worker (such as independent contractors and employees), there are a number of regulations an employer must consider. In this article, we will focus on how seasonal workers impact a business’s health and retirement benefit obligations.

   The Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), Seasonal Worker Exception

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Familiarizing Yourself with California’s Trade Secret Laws

Los Angeles businesses often spend a huge amount of time, money, and effort building up information to give their business an edge over competitors. This information can be anything from a recipe to an unpatented invention to a list of loyal customers. In each of these examples, the information that a business has acquired to provide it with an edge over competitors may be considered a trade secret. California Civil Code Sections 3426 – 3426.11 codifies trade secret law in the state of California. This codification is an adaptation of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act.

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