Navigating Choppy Waters: A solid understanding of complex legal issues can help calm the waves for franchisees.

Author:Bleiman, Andrew P.

For many franchisees, there are simply not enough hours in the day to manage day-to-day operations, customers, employees, vendors and suppliers. Understandably, dealing with lawyers and staying abreast of legal issues impacting their businesses is likely the last thing that franchisees want to do. However, it is critical that small-business owners make time to stay on top of and obtain a general understanding of the various legal issues that can impact their businesses. Over the past couple years, myriad legal issues impacting small-business owners ranging from minimum wage to the legalization of marijuana to sexual misconduct have been featured in news headlines. Consequently, franchisees are best advised to build a strong team of advisors including their attorney, financial advisors, and their franchisor to help steer clear of landmines in the complex legal landscape.

Legal issues facing small-business owners are constantly evolving and changing. For example, it is imperative that franchisees understand the various labor and employment law issues that may affect their business and how to comply with those laws and regulations. Currently, there is no hotter topic in employment law than workplace harassment. The #MeToo and Time's Up movements have thrust these issues into the limelight. It is important for franchisees to have good systems in place to appropriately train employees and to ensure that employees know how to identify and curtail harassment if it occurs to minimize legal exposure.


Likewise, some other labor and employment law issues that merit similar attention, include, but are not limited to, the following:

* Minimum wage laws: Over the past several years, minimum wage rates have risen in various states, cities and municipalities. There are currently several initiatives pending around the country to further increase the minimum wage rate. Franchisees should consult with their attorney, payroll provider and accountant to ensure compliance with the current minimum wage rate applicable to their business.

* ADA accommodation requests: After an employee advises that he cannot perform a task, or needs a workplace change, employers may have a legal obligation to make an accommodation for such employee. Since the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, many physical and mental conditions are covered as "disabilities." Similarly, under the ADA, employers have an obligation to accommodate pregnancy-related conditions, and certain...

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