Before you start your business, familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations it must comply with. Remember, many of the same rules and regulations apply to small businesses as to big corporations. Here are the main areas of the law that may affect your business:
Advertising and Marketing. As a business owner, it's up to you to ensure that any claims you make in your marketing materials do not mislead or deceive the public. Specific industries have different advertising guidelines, and some are more strict than others. Advertising and marketing laws also cover e-mail campaigns, telemarketing, and even labeling.
Intellectual Property. If you created or invented something or have unique symbols, names, images, logos, typefaces, or designs associated with your business, they are protected by intellectual property law. There are two types of IP: industrial property (patents, trademarks, industrial designs, products made in and named for a particular geographical area) and copyright (literary and artistic works, performances, recordings, architectural designs).
Environmental. Laws govern how businesses dispose of waste, where certain types of businesses can be located, and the steps companies must take to protect the air, water, land, shoreline, and wildlife habitats. If your business produces hazardous waste that might affect the environment, you must procure special permits for its treatment and disposal. Environmental laws and regulations are mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA provides assistance to small businesses to help them meet environmental regulations.
Finance. Antitrust, bankruptcy, and securities laws protect you, your business, your individual investors, and consumers from financial losses due to unethical business practices.
E-Commerce. If you operate your business online, you must comply with laws regarding collecting sales tax, international sales, shipping, and other aspects of e-commerce.
Privacy. Laws set by the Federal Trade Commission dictate how you use, share, store, dispose of, and secure consumer information and help prevent identity theft. If you collect sensitive data such as medical or financial information, special privacy regulations apply to your industry.
Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). The UCC regulates business transactions you make outside your state. If you borrow money, lease equipment, create a contract, sell a product, or conduct other business between U.S. states and territories, you must comply with UCC regulations regarding financial record keeping and loan procurement.
Workplace Health and Safety. Businesses must follow Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) requirements in order to keep employees safe and injury-free. You can research the OSHA regulations that apply to your type of business, as well as request a site visit from an OSHA representative to assess your workplace. OSHA also provides training to business owners.
Employee Eligibility. If you will be hiring employees, you must verify their eligibility to work legally in the United States. Federal law requires you complete an Employee Eligibility Verification (I-9) form for every employee to confirm his or her citizenship or employment status. You must also practice federally mandated hiring practices that are fair and nondiscriminatory.