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Before you open your business doors, whether online or in a brick-and-mortar location, you need to know business law. You don’t need to graduate from Harvard Law School, but you do need to familiarize yourself with a smattering of laws and legal facts before your launch.

Local, State, and Federal Business Licensing

A plethora of laws governs business licensing at the three major levels of government. Call your local city government office to learn if you need a local license and to check the zoning laws from your business location, especially if you plan to run your business from home. Visit the Small Business Administration website to learn whether your business requires state and federal licensing. Some types of business also require certification of the personnel, such as plumbers and electricians.

Essential Labor and Employment Laws

You need to familiarize yourself with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Federal Equal Employment Opportunity (FEEO), Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) and your state’s law governing workers’ compensation and its insurance requirements. You also need to understand the at-will work doctrine, which says an employee can quit their job at any time, and the employer can fire them at any time for a legal reason. The latest law governs health care insurance, commonly referred to as Obamacare.

FLSA: This law sets the federal minimum wage, rules for overtime hours, child labor bans, plus rules for record-keeping.
FEEO: A set of laws that govern worker’s rights, including discrimination prohibitions for gender, color, nationality, race, as well as disabled workers’ protections and mandates equal pay for both genders.
FMLA: Sets rules for the employer in dealing with an employee with a medical condition or an immediate family member undergoing a medical issue. This includes a protected number of weeks the employee can take off for treatment.
OSHA: This law created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and provides for employee safety at work. It also imbued the agency with its rule-making authority.

Tax Laws at the Federal, State, and Local Levels

You’d like to think you obtain your employer identification number and file your business taxes on April 15, but it isn’t that simple. Besides federal business taxes, you also need to file state and sometimes local taxes. You also pay social security, Medicare and federal unemployment taxes. You might find it helpful to review these items with a certified public accountant.

Advertising and Marketing Laws

Before you hang out your shingle or run your first ad, learn what is legal in advertising and marketing. Pay special attention to what you can do in a commercial targeting children, the CAN-SPAM Act, which bans spam, plus the Telemarking Sales Law.

Know the business laws to get your business started the right way. Avoid legal snafus by knowing what rules you must follow.