Unless you’re a crook, breaking the law probably isn’t top of your list of business goals. You just want to run your business well and make some money without doing anything illegal.
But the thing is, you might end up on the wrong side of the law without even realizing it, even if you think that you’re doing everything above board. The world of business law is a confusing place and if you don’t do your research before starting your own company, you could easily make genuine mistakes that lead to you doing something illegal.
These are some of the most common laws businesses break without knowing and what you should do about it if it happens to you.
#1 Workplace Injuries
If somebody gets injured around the office, that’s not illegal, right? Well, it’s not illegal if you’ve created a safe environment for your employees and dealt with any potential hazards.
If everything’s done right, it’s just a simple accident. But if somebody gets hurt because you haven’t taken the necessary measures to keep them safe, you’re liable for it and that employee is likely to come to you and say, our lawyers are going to sue you.
You’ll end up paying a huge settlement that could land you in big trouble, and that’s often the best case scenario. There are a lot of regulations around safety in the workplace and breaking some of them could land you in a lot more legal trouble.
For example, if you haven’t got enough fire escapes in the building or the right amount of fire extinguishers, you could end up in legal trouble. Make sure that you know all of the health and safety rules and you’re adhering to all of the codes so you don’t get in trouble.
#2 Destroying Documents
Keeping paper records of every single thing takes a lot of space so it’s natural that all companies are going to destroy old documents which are fine, most of the time.
However, if your company is involved in some kind of legal proceeding, even if you aren’t being accused of any criminal activity, those documents might be considered evidence.
If you accidentally destroy any of them, even if it’s a genuine mistake, you could find yourself in legal trouble.
The best thing to do in that situation is to make sure that you don’t destroy any documents or records at all until all proceedings are completely finished, that way you don’t risk getting on the wrong side of the law.
#3 Breaking Patent Law
When you’ve come up with a great product idea you’ll probably be itching to get going on production and get it onto the market. There’s nothing wrong with that passion, it’s what drives business success.
However, it’s important that you don’t get ahead of yourself. If you came up with the idea, what’s to say that nobody else has before you?
If somebody else has come up with the idea and patented it, you’re immediately breaking the law once you start selling it.
You might not realize that you’re doing it but the law doesn’t care about whether your mistake was genuine. Whenever you come up with any new product idea, always check whether there is an existing patent on the product or any part of it before you set the wheels in motion.
If you’re lucky and there isn’t a patent on it, you can start production. But it’s important that you don’t forget to patent it yourself and make sure that you mark all patented products so another company doesn’t make the same mistake.
You won’t be in trouble for it but you’ll have to go through a lengthy legal process to get damages from whoever is reproducing your patent.
#4 Selling Recalled Products
If a product is deemed dangerous or defective in some way, it’ll be recalled. The thing is, they won’t always let every distributor know that it’s been recalled and if the manufacturer doesn’t tell you, you’ll be none the wiser.
But you will still be in legal trouble if you continue to sell it. The Consumer Product Safety Commission does have a list of all recalled products on their website which they keep regularly updated so you should always check from time to time to make sure that you aren’t selling anything that you shouldn’t be.
#5 Not Paying Taxes
There are plenty of businesses out there that aren’t paying the right amount of tax and they’re doing it on purpose. But even if you’re trying to be honest with your taxes, you could still get caught out by the difficult business tax laws.
If you’re filling out your returns and making mistakes on them, you could be breaking the law. If you’re audited and the mistakes are considered to be truly genuine, you’ll just have to pay the rest of what you owe.
But if they consider the mistakes to be a result of negligence and bad planning, you could end up being slapped with a hefty fine.
#6 Hiring Illegal Workers
When you’re hiring employees, there are a lot of legal hurdles you need to jump through to make sure that the person is actually eligible to work in the country.
That means you should be asking for all of the relevant documentation and social security number etc. but you could still slip up. People will often use fake documentation to try to work illegally.
Obviously, you’re not an expert in fake documents and some of these forgeries can be incredibly realistic so there’s always the chance somebody could slip by.
Whenever you’re hiring a new employee, you should make sure that you double and triple check every single piece of information that they give you. If you’re still unsure about whether they’re legal to work in the country, the best thing to do is to hire immigration lawyers to check everything for you.
You might not be doing it on purpose but it doesn’t matter, if you’re breaking the law it could put your business in real trouble so always be vigilant.