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The Hamilton Law Blog

Business partnerships on shaky ground

The idea of having a partner in your business venture may have developed as you explored your options and developed your business plan. On the other hand, it is possible that the original idea for your venture included a partner, and together you built your business model. No matter how a partnership starts, there is always the risk that it will end badly.

A lot is on the line when two or more people go into business together. Like a marriage, a business partnership is made of people with differing personalities, strengths and weaknesses. While every partnership has its own dynamic, there are common reasons why many partnerships end in disputes.

Crown Act Signed into Law in December 2019 Will Change Employee Policies and Enforcement

In December 2019, Gov. Murphy signed into law the new Crown Act (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act) which includes discrimination based upon "traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles, such as braids, locks and twists." This law, arising from incident of an Atlantic County student wrestler who was forced by an official to cut his dreadlocks, will now make it unlawful to discriminate against an employee for the nature and style of their hair.

NJ is one of only three states in the nation which prohibit such discrimination. The law is immediately in effect and is immediately enforceable.

Business Best Practices for 2020

As you look forward to the year ahead, you should be taking the time to evaluate your existing systems and processes. This is particularly important if you have not updated your HR policies within the last year and are not keeping up with the changes in NJ law as they apply to your business and your employees. Beware, there have been and are going to be a lot of big changes in the rules that govern how you employ and manage your workers.

The Effect of Legalizing Marijuana on the workplace.

As the New Jersey legislature proceeds through its "lame duck" session in the last days of 2019, it is possible that the Assembly and Senate may revisit the bill legalizing recreational marijuana usage and vote to adopt same. While the legislation will decriminalize recreational usage at the state level, marijuana still remains a Schedule 1 regulated substance per the Federal Controlled Substance Act. Accordingly, you will need to ensure that your employee handbooks and workplace policies address the consumption, usage, testing of this substance during your working hours. How you address it will depend on the nature of your business and the specific job tasks done by your different categories of employees.

SB 4204: Changing the Way Independent Contractors Can Work In New Jersey.

Making it harder to use or be an independent contractor in New Jersey.

Senate Bill 4204, that changes the standard for how New Jersey will classify independent contractors, is barreling towards the finish line. This Bill, sponsored by Senator Sweeney, moves the classification analysis away from the "ABC" test that has been in place for decades. This Bill is modeled after one signed into law in California.

COMPLIANCE TIPS: Employee Classification

In May 2018, NJ Gov. Phil Murphy established a Task Force on Employee Misclassification focused on ensuring that employees are properly classified as W-2 wage earners rather than 1099 independent contractors. The Task Force enforces the ABC test set forth in Hargrove v. Sleepy's, which presumes a worker to be a W-2 employee unless the employer can demonstrate the independence of the worker in performing the essential functions of the job, that the worker serves other masters, and is regularly engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession or business.

Proactive steps that minimize harassment claims in the office

Employers have to think about many things just to keep their business running. Everything from dealing with employees to marketing plans may be part of your responsibilities as an employer, and this means you may not have much room to think about preventing certain types of legal problems. In reality, it is worthwhile to take the time to think about what you can do to protect your company.

Claims and allegations of misconduct in your place of work can be detrimental. Even if they are untrue, just the hint of sexual harassment can have a devastating impact on your company's reputation and your employee-employer relationship. There are steps you can take that will allow you to shield your business interests and minimize the chance that a sexual harassment incident will take place.

Employees on Social Media

Protecting your Company's Brand

You have spent thousands hiring a branding company to launch a new marketing initiative to accelerate your growth. As entrepreneurs, we often forget that corporate change is hard and that any new initiative needs top-to-bottom buy-in. Even if you have an existing brand with no new changes, you still work hard to protect your company's image in all public facing communications.

Workplace Bullies

The EEOC defines harassment as "unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information." To be actionable at law, the harassment needs to be aimed at these protected categories.

However, as an employer, you must be alert to all forms of harassment taking place at your company, regardless of the harasser's motivation. A workplace bully creates a toxic environment that is detrimental to other employees, company morale and overall productivity. One of your responsibilities as an owner/manager is to ensure that you are providing a healthy work environment free from harassment and intimidation and to address such instances as they arise.

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