Common Employment Law Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Common Employment Law Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Your small business may only employ a few people, but you are still subject to most of the same laws and regulations as corporations that employ thousands. Compliance with employment law will save your business from stressful audits or legal fines. A small business attorney will help you with every aspect of employment law from contract review to hiring to working with employees. Here are five of the most common areas where employers make mistakes when it comes to employment law compliance.

  1. Regulatory Agencies and Laws
  2. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  3. Employee Classification
  4. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
  5. I-9 Forms

1. Failing to Stay Current with Regulatory Agencies and Laws
Practically everything associated with employment law falls under here, and the number of regulatory agencies with their corresponding laws continues to grow rapidly. Some of the areas governed by regulatory agencies include: workplace safety and health laws (see #4 on OSHA), payroll and overtime payment laws (see #3 on employee classification), recordkeeping requirements (see #5 on I-9 forms), anti-discrimination (see #2 on ADA compliance) and anti-harassment laws, local, state and federal leave laws, and employee privacy laws. Creating a checklist before you begin hiring new employees and working with an attorney will ensure you start off and stay compliant with state and federal employment laws.

2. Not Following the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Guidelines
The ADA prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation. This applies to all employment-related activities, including recruitment, training, tenure, layoff, leave, and fringe benefits among others. The law protects individuals who have a disability, which means they have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, they have a record of such impairment, or they are regarded as having such impairment. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s website has ADA and other discrimination-related information for small businesses.

3. Mis-Classifying Employees
By classifying your employees accurately, you ensure they get the appropriate wages, benefits, and protections to which they are entitled. An exempt employee, according to the U.S. Small Business Association, is someone who is paid a specified amount of money regardless of the number of hours worked a week. These employees may be exempt from overtime payments and meal or rest breaks. Assuming it is easier to pay everyone a salary, however, can lead to problems. Be sure to classify your employees properly in order to avoid noncompliance issues with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and the U.S. Department of Labor. Your business attorney will help you with hiring employees, choosing the right employment contracts and agreements, keeping good records, and providing advice and representation in the event of an audit or lawsuit.

4. Ignoring Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Regulations
OSHA’s detailed safety regulations include a General Duty Clause, for small and large businesses alike, which requires every employer to provide every employee with a work environment that is free from recognized hazards. It is your responsibility to communicate these rules to your employees via written safety and health rules in the form of visible signs and/or posters. In the unfortunate event of an accident at your business, you will need to take corrective action immediately. With a host of other federal acts, intended to protect employees, such as the Fair Labor Standards Act, the ADA, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Family Medical Leave Act, it is paramount that you understand and remain compliant with all aspects of employment law.

5. Keeping Invalid or Incomplete I-9 Forms on File
The I-9 form, also known as Employment Eligibility Verification, is completed by employees and employers in verifying the identity and employment authorization of every employee hired. Simple as it sounds, omitting or not completing I-9 forms can result in fines and legal trouble. Before filing it away, be sure the whole form is filled out, including dates and signatures – within three days of the employee’s hire date. Too often, employers miss the deadline or employees fail to provide the correct supporting documentation. You can provide a list of acceptable documents and allow the employees to make their own selection.

These are just a few of the many employment law mistakes and potential pitfalls for small business owners.

If you need help with employment law, contact me, Elizabeth Lewis, at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Business Lawyer. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com

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Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
Your Denver Business Attorney
501 S. Cherry St., Suite 1100
Denver, CO 80264
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

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How to Start and Stay in the Retail Market

How to Start and Stay in the Retail Market

Starting your own retail store takes a lot of initial planning. There is so much more to it than simply choosing a place, setting up your goods, and opening your doors. After the early planning stages, it is hard work to stay at the top of the retail market. Denver has one of the most vibrant retail scenes in the nation with its lively downtown shopping district, strong regional anchors, and eclectic neighborhood businesses. So, where do you fit in and how do you stay in? A small business attorney will help you with every phase – from planning and daily operations to maintaining and expanding to helping you sell when the time is right – throughout the life of your retail business.

Start on Solid Ground

As a small business owner, you will hear again and again how crucial it is to choose the right legal structure for your retail store. Your business entity affects everything from the taxes you are required to pay to the permits and zoning laws that govern your business. Determining the right products and services as well as location are also business planning essentials. You may have a passion for your product, but you have to figure out how and where to sell it in order for it to be profitable and make sure you have the right market for the product you love. For instance, you may love meat and be the best butcher around, but a meat market in a highly vegetarian area is a recipe for disaster. Before you commit to a lease, consider if the ideal location for your product is ideal for your budget. Sometimes, second best is better. A great space that costs too much and causes you to close is a lot worse than a pretty good space that allows you to thrive. A business attorney can guide you through state and city laws as well as review and create contracts and agreements.

Establish Good Vendor/Wholesale Relationships

Once you have settled on the right product(s), it is time to find the right vendors. In order for your retail store to offer products at a price and time that suits your customers, you have to partner with vendors who understand your needs and vision. Communicate your goals and expectations at the start of the relationship. If your vendor knows that timing, cost, and consistency are important to your business, then they are likely to focus on those areas. Other areas to keep in mind when selecting a vendor include returns, defective items, credit, and payment terms among others.

Recruit the Best Employees

Hiring the best sales staff is just as essential to the success of your retail store as having the right product. With the influx of millennials who have migrated to Colorado in recent years, it may be more important to hire someone who fits the culture rather than someone with the highest qualifications. Cultural fit covers a variety of characteristics, including alignment of values, work-life balance, company mission, and customer relations. You may think a college degree is necessary, but someone who lives and breaths your products may put someone who doesn’t love your products but has a degree to shame. Once you have found the ideal staff, be sure to train them beyond their daily roles. You can avoid many costly mistakes and lost customers by ensuring your employees are well versed in your store’s policies and procedures. The better equipped they are to handle the unexpected or uncommon situation (and feel empowered to do so), the better customer service they will deliver. You may let them know that for repeat customers, they can offer an occasional small discount. Not only does this make your employee feel that you trust them, it allows your customers to feel your business appreciates them. Whether you need help hiring employees, drawing up their contracts, or [if things take a negative turn] letting them go, your small business attorney will be there.

Fine-Tune Your Marketing

Your marketing plan should be in place before you open your retail store. This should incorporate promotional, branding, and advertising ideas. Determining not only how your customers shop, but also where they dwell (e.g. social media), will point to where your marketing budget should be spent. Since retail has become an omnichannel business model, you would be remiss not to consider each way your potential customers like to do business – brick and mortar shops, mobile applications, catalogues, FAQ webpages, social media, live web chats, telephone communication, and more. Expanding your channels with a consistent brand and message will expand your reach.

If you need help starting a retail store, contact me, Elizabeth Lewis, at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Colorado Business Attorney. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com

Contact Us Today

Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
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501 S. Cherry St., Suite 1100
Denver, CO 80264
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

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10 Ways to De-Stress Your Business Tax Time

10 Ways to De-Stress Your Business Tax Time

As a small business owner, tax time can be very stressful, especially if you wait until the last minute to try to organize a year’s worth of paperwork. In order to ease the stress and avoid potential trouble with the Colorado Department of Revenue or Internal Revenue Service (IRS), start thinking about tax time as all year round. There are steps you can take throughout the year to make a big difference in your total income and tax liability when it comes time to file. A small business attorney can give you tax advice on the right business structure and paying the right taxes on time as well as provide representation in the event of an audit or penalty. This post will cover 10 keys to getting organized and keeping accurate records to eliminate the anxiety of tax season.

Getting Your Taxes Organized

  1. Appoint time each month to reconcile your receipts, bank slips, statements, invoices, etc. By dedicating just a couple of hours every month to basic bookkeeping, you will avoid dealing with 12 months’ worth of accumulation all at once. You can make a list of steps to be prepared and add important deadlines, dates, and digital reminders to your calendar.
  2. Create a simple filing system for your paperwork. Keep everything in one place, and clearly label or name your folders. Both paper and electronic bookkeeping can be organized by month and type of record.
  3. Separate business and personal finances. Not only will separate bank and credit card accounts for your business make it easier to manage your books, it will enable you to produce legitimate business documents in the event of an audit.
  4. Review your business reports and records even if you have a bookkeeper or an accountant. It is your business and liability on the line, so it is vital to know what is going on. If you are looking to hire someone to do your taxes, the IRS suggests a list of questions to ask the prospective tax preparer.
  5. Prepare for next year as soon as you have filed for the current year. Make a list of steps and possible improvements for the following tax season while the success and/or struggle of the current one is still fresh on your mind.
  6. Keeping Accurate Tax Records

  7. Understand your business structure and how it impacts your taxes. As your business grows and changes, it is important to reevaluate whether your current structure still works for you.
  8. Know how to claim your home office on your taxes. Whether you rent or own, you can claim a space that is designated for your business. It can be a partial space, rather than the whole room, and it must not be used for any other purpose. Once you have measured the space, you may be able to deduct a portion of expenses, like your mortgage interest, insurance, and utilities. The IRS has a home office deduction page with instructions.
  9. Record your mileage and car expenses if you use your car for business. There are two methods for calculating this deduction – one is based on your standard mileage rate, and the other is based on actual car expenses, like gas, repairs, and insurance. Whichever formula you choose, you will need documentation, including dates, mileage, tolls, parking fees, and the reason for your trip.
  10. Remember to save receipts from meals, travel, entertainment, and gifts. While you can deduct 50% of business-related meals, the cost of travel is 100% deductible. Most client entertainment expenses fall under the 50% deduction limit, while a direct gift to a client or employee is 100% deductible (up to $25 per person per year).
  11. Deduct office supplies even if you do not take the home office deduction. Furniture and other equipment, software/subscriptions, and telephone charges are also tax-deductible.

There are endless tips on how to streamline your business tax process as well as how to avoid a business tax audit. From starting a retirement plan, donating, and deferring income to not hiring too many independent contractors and limiting your business loss claims, the possibilities are seemingly endless. A small business attorney will help you sift through the checklists and keep prepared for each new tax season.

If you need help with your business taxes, or just need to find ways to de-stress business tax time tasks for your small business, contact me, Elizabeth Lewis, at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Small Business Lawyer. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com

Contact Us Today

Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
Your Denver Business Attorney
501 S. Cherry St., Suite 1100
Denver, CO 80264
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

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How to Startup, Popup, and Get a Leg Up in Retail

How to Startup, Popup, and Get a Leg Up in Retail

Despite the closings and bankruptcies of long-established stores and corporations over the past few years, Denver continues to attract national and international retailers. Big names like IKEA, Uniqlo, H&M, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Alamo Drafthouse Cinema have moved in, creating an even tighter real estate market for new or expanding businesses hoping to enter the city’s thriving retail market.

While you may not be looking for a huge warehouse to set up your small retail store, you would certainly benefit from being a part of the larger scene. If you are not already an established brand, then a startup business may be a great option for you. If you want to expand, then a popup shop may be a great alternative to a traditional storefront. Just as online consumerism has changed the landscape of commerce, startups and popups are transforming traditional retail.

Small Business Attorney E.C. Lewis, P.C. can help with every aspect of starting or expanding your retail store, from contract review and creation to daily business operations. This post will explore these types of stores and what they can do for your retail store.

What Constitutes a Startup?

One definition of a startup company is a fast-growing small business that aims to meet a marketplace need by developing a viable business model around an innovative product, service, process, or platform. Startups typically enter the market quickly by finding new or less costly ways of operating, e.g. food trucks, booth rentals, and popup shops. This model creates experiences that draw customers to a social scene, which is very appealing to Denver’s growing millennial population.

While e-commerce continues to push retail to evolve, there is a trend in today’s retail concept, going from online only to actual establishments. This movement from click to brick can be seen with Fabletics, Omaha Steaks, and Amazon whose newest offering is grocery delivery. With an increasingly innovative retail atmosphere, Denver’s hottest districts – Larimer Square, Union Station, Dairy Block, Denver Central Market, and more – are responding with more unique and versatile spaces.

No longer exclusively associated with techie communal space working, tennis table playing employees, startup businesses have many determinants. Years in business, annual revenue, and number of employees are just some of the ways people measure whether a small business is a startup or not. So, what if you have successfully started a startup and want to expand? A Forbes article points out that the key attribute of a startup is its ability to grow and scale very quickly. And, one way to do this is by opening a popup location.

What are the Benefits of a Popup Shop?

Popup shops are a great way for a fledgling or expanding business to enter the market. These types of stores require less capital investment to introduce or test a new product or service, and they provide instant customer feedback. A Shopify article describes a popup shop as a short-term retail event that creates a frenzy with its “get it before it’s gone” message. The temporary nature of this type of store enables you to plan around an occasion or a holiday that may suit what you are selling perfectly. You can also go to your customers by choosing the district, kiosk, or gallery space where your product or service matches the personality of the neighborhood.

After you have vacated the popup location, the idea is that customers will remember your product or service and follow you. This is a fantastic segue to having an omnichannel presence – you entice your prospective customers with an in-store experience, then lead them to your other location(s), website, and social media accounts where they can find you and become loyal customers.

Like setting up an actual, more permanent retail store, you must consider many factors when planning for your popup location. Rent, utilities, insurance, Internet, point of sale (POS), furniture, repairs, inventory, displays, marketing, duration are some of these considerations. A small business attorney can help you with choosing the right location and entity, reviewing and drafting contracts, keeping compliant with taxes and licensing, and expanding your retail store.

If you need help with your retail store, contact me, Elizabeth Lewis, at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Small Business Attorney. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com

Contact Us Today

Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
Your Denver Business Attorney
501 S. Cherry St., Suite 1100
Denver, CO 80264
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

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Is It Time For Your Home Business To Move Out?

Is It Time For Your Home Business To Move Out?

The rapid pace of Colorado’s economic environment is both alluring and daunting for small business owners. Consistently ranked at the top for everything from best city to live in (Denver) to technology and business, Colorado is not only attracting people, but it is also bringing in major retailers from around the globe. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Colorado’s population grew by nearly 200,000 between 2014 and 2016, reaching more than 5.5 million. This boom has created a robust business climate and economic opportunities for entrepreneurs of all shapes and sizes. There are nearly 600,000 small business owners in Colorado despite rising real estate and cost of living rates. While you may have started as a home business because of these rising costs, there may come a time when you must expand beyond the home. This post will cover five reasons to move your business into a retail or office space. A small business attorney can help you make the right decisions for the future of your home business whether you stay where you are or move.

Moving your small business outside of the home is a major decision with a host of added expenses. Rent, agreements, utilities, cleaning and maintenance fees, movers, equipment, furniture, gas, taxes, and permits are just some of the overhead costs and regulations that will differ from your home operations. However, there are many benefits. Entrepreneur magazine discusses some of the arguments for giving up your commute to the spare bedroom.

1. A Growing Business Requires More Space

If your business is thriving, you have no doubt experienced some growing pains. Depending on the nature of your product or service, more customers can lead to storage and space issues. This is further complicated if you need additional staff. Unless you are willing and able to renovate your home to accommodate your expanding needs, you will likely have to rent outside space. In some cases, zoning laws prohibit you from having more than one employee in your home business.

2. Rented Space is Perceived as More Professional by Some

Clients may already come to your home office, which can be a bit of a juggling act when you are trying to portray a professional image. There may be a much broader audience you are not reaching – an audience who is deterred by or skeptical of the home setting. For those potential clients, a larger commercial space instills consumer confidence. The increased revenue from this larger client-base should eventually exceed the costs associated with renting outside space.

3. You May Not Want Non-Family Employees in Your Home

Having staff members in your home, especially if you have a large family or young children, may not be ideal. Unless they work virtually, it can even be difficult to hire the type of employee you are looking for. While a casual, flexible atmosphere is enticing to some, others have a bias associated with home business settings.

4. Your Home Has Too Many Distractions

It can be difficult to stay on task. The perks of making your own hours and dress code can also lead to an informal attitude and procrastination. It might take leaving the home to instill a more focused, productive work ethic, especially with piles of laundry or dishes taunting you in the other room. The demands or interruptions from family members will also lessen without your constant physical presence to which they have become accustomed. Moving into a retail or office space could restore your work-life balance.

5. Working Outside of the Home is Stimulating

Humans are social creatures, and working from home can be lonely. Without the stimulation of colleagues or peers, creativity and progress can be stunted. Even if you cannot afford a larger commercial space, co-working spaces provide lower cost options. If you find yourself easily distracted by isolation, overcompensating by doing housework, running errands, or visiting with neighbors, it is time to move out.

In a community of small business owners, networking and support abound for your growing home business. Everyone, including your competitors, want to see you succeed and stay in Colorado. Financing and grant opportunities are available through the U.S. Small Business Administration District Offices, and there are dozens of development centers for small businesses throughout the state. If the future of your business rests on expansion, but you are still not ready to relocate, there are ways to make it work. You are, after all, your own boss and landlord! If you need to hire employees, perhaps you can hire other free agents or ask that they work remotely. Storage facilities may offer a solution to your overrun piles and stacks. Business centers are temporary offices that provide space and amenities, like meeting space, office equipment, and receptionists. A small business attorney will help you decide whether it is best to stay or go and adapt to your changing needs.

If you need help deciding what to do with your home business, contact me, Elizabeth Lewis, at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Business Lawyer. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com

Contact Us Today

Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C.
Your Denver Business Attorney
501 S. Cherry St., Suite 1100
Denver, CO 80264
720-258-6647
Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com

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