Business laws and legislations are the laws governing companies. They include those regulations associated with intellectual property, employment, insurance, business entity formation, and other matters. Because it can be difficult to keep track of all the business laws that apply to your industry, you may want to retain the services of an experienced business attorney.

The regulations you must follow depend on the type of business you have and how large it is, as well as where you do business. If you cross county or state lines in the course of doing business, you could be subject to additional laws and regulations.

Common Types of Business Laws

A wide range of legislation applies to businesses, including but not limited to rules associated with:

  • What activities are illegal or constitute misconduct
  • Financial and operational codes
  • Special licenses and permits
  • Liquor licenses
  • State and local building codes
  • Federal taxes
  • Bankruptcy
  • Environmental laws
  • Employment
  • Safety and health standards for the workplace

To attract new businesses, states provide technical assistance to help new companies comply with the pertinent laws.

Regulatory Laws

These types of laws, issued by federal, state, and local governments, govern how businesses must operate. Certain industries, particularly those affected by environmental laws and building codes, must comply with even more regulations. Major federal environmental regulations are typically enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and include:

  • The Clean Air Act, which regulates air emissions
  • The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) governs the mitigation of hazardous waste sites.
  • The Endangered Species Act protects both plants and animals that are endangered or at risk of endangerment.
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) addresses workplace safety and environmental issues.

Employment Laws

Labor laws govern the rights and responsibilities of employees in the workplace. These include:

  • Wage garnishment rules
  • Minimum wage regulations
  • Worker protection rules
  • Child labor laws
  • Some sections of OSHA
  • Employee insurance and benefit programs
  • Immigration and employment
  • The Fair Labor Standards Act, which governs overtime, child labor, minimum wage, and record-keeping.
  • Federal Equal Employment Opportunity laws prevent employers from discriminating based on religion, race, sex, or national origin, require equal pay for women and men, and provides protection for people with disabilities.
  • The Family and Medical Leave Act, which provides time off if an employee or immediate family member is dealing with a medical condition
  • Workers' compensation insurance
  • At-will work doctrines

Immigration and Employment Laws

All workers in the U.S. must prove their eligibility to hold a job there, whether they are a permanent resident, were born in the U.S., or are there on a work visa. This proof typically requires the employee to fill out IRS Form I-9 and provide a state-issued ID card, Social Security card, or other accepted form of identification. Photocopied documents are not accepted; the employee must provide originals.

Employers who hire workers without an I-9 are in violation of federal law. However, they are not responsible for detecting fraudulent documents provided they make a good-faith effort to do so. A limited number of guest visas are available for companies that want to sponsor someone who lives overseas for a specific position.

Miscellaneous Business Laws

Other laws that may impact the operation of your business include those regarding:

  • Taxation
  • Reporting finances to investors and to the government
  • Truth in advertising and marketing
  • Telemarketing sales
  • Sales tax collection
  • International sales laws
  • Data security
  • Healthcare privacy
  • Intellectual property
  • Bankruptcy

The Effect of Laws on Businesses

The government can make updates to the laws that affect businesses, so it's important to make sure your knowledge of the applicable laws is up-to-date. Your business may need to adjust its operations to make sure you are still in compliance with these legal changes.

Tax policy is one of the most common ways that changing laws affect businesses directly. Another is the relationship between employers and employees, which can change if employment laws change.

Businesses must also pay attention to the impact of international trade tariffs, which govern the types of goods that can be imported and exported, as well as which parties can participate in global trade.

Although the purpose of most businesses is to create profit, governments ensure that they do so with health, safety, and ethics in mind.

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