Five Potential Legal Issues Maryland Small Businesses Need to Think About

September 17, 2020
The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford

cafe owners holding an "open" sign

Small businesses help form the backbone of the U.S. economy and small businesses in Maryland are no different. There’s also the ability to be your own boss that has tremendous appeal. But despite their importance and the advantages they provide, operating a small business can offer a unique set of legal challenges.

But this doesn’t mean a sole proprietor or another type of business owner needs to spend a lot of money on legal advice. In fact, consulting with a Maryland employment lawyer before a problem comes up can save money in the long run.

To learn more about how a Maryland employment attorney can help your business avoid costly legal issues, contact the Law Firm of J.W. Stafford. The following blog post will outline some of these potential small business legal challenges.

Legal Issue #1: Employee Rights

You already do your best to treat your employees right. But despite the best of intentions, illegal conduct is still possible. For example, maybe you have a pregnant or older worker who you think is at higher risk for suffering from severe coronavirus symptoms (should they become infected). In an effort to protect them, you treat them differently by:

  • Forcing them to spend less time in the office.
  • Transferring them to a position with fewer interactions with the general public.
  • Only requiring pregnant or older workers to wear face masks or face shields in the office.

If an employee requests any of these accommodations, you can certainly provide them. But singling out someone because of a protected trait (such as age, if over 40, or pregnancy) and making changes to their job could be a form of illegal discrimination.

To avoid these types of problems, it’s sometimes best to consult with a  Maryland employment attorney before implementing a new workplace policy. It’s not just federal employment laws to worry about, but state and county level laws as well.

Legal Issue #2: Regulatory Compliance in Maryland

“You don’t know what you don’t know.” This is an especially applicable saying when it comes to complying with the law. Maryland is like many other states in that it has various license, registration and permit requirements for not just professional individuals, but businesses as well.

For instance, did you know that “any person who installs, materially alters or extends a refuse disposal system” must obtain the Maryland Refuse Disposal Permit? There’s no fee for this permit, but it can take up to three years to obtain approval to get one. 

This is just an example to demonstrate that there are so many contexts in which your Maryland business may need to comply with state or local regulations and laws.

Legal Issue #3: Business Form

There are several ways a business can structure itself. Some of the most common forms include:

  • Sole proprietorship
  • Partnership
  • Limited liability company
  • Corporation

Our Maryland employment lawyer knows that choosing the right structure can be critical in protecting your personal assets, as well as the assets of your business. This protection can be from creditors, employees or customers. There are also tax implications to consider as well.

Legal Issue #4: Contract Review

Most business transactions and relationships go smoothly and without incident. So it’s easy to become complacent when it comes to business contracts. You might think the contract you use with your counterparties gives you ample legal rights to successfully sue them if they don’t abide by the contract. But there might be a missing or unenforceable term in the contract that you aren’t aware of.

Or maybe there is a company from another state you’re about to start doing business with and they prepared a contract for you to sign. After reading the contract, it looks agreeable to you. But did you check the choice of law provision? Should you find yourself in court litigating against this business, you might only then learn that another state‘s less advantageous laws will decide your case, not Maryland’s.

Legal Issue #5: Intellectual Property Protections

If you have a new idea, perhaps you need to legally protect it. Maybe you need to register a copyright or file a patent. But this assumes that you’re the first to come up with this idea and secure legal protections. This can be a dangerous assumption that leads to a situation where you find yourself violating someone else’s intellectual property rights when you thought they were violating yours.

Or how about protecting your trade secrets while sharing it with others, such as your employees? There are confidentiality or nondisclosure agreements for that. But there are many ways to prepare these contracts, and they’re not all created equally when it comes to standing up to scrutiny in court.

Need to Set Up a Meeting With a Maryland Employment Lawyer?

If you’d like to learn more about how a Maryland employment lawyer can help protect you and your business, please don’t hesitate to contact the Law Firm of J.W. Stafford. You can call us at 410-514-6099 or use our website’s contact form.