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Small business owners must always be mindful of federal, state discrimination laws

It goes without saying that when an individual makes the monumental decision to start a small business, he or she will be confronted a host of vital tasks that must be accomplished in the short-term. Indeed, commercial space must be purchased or leased, shelves stocked with the necessary inventory, business formation documents executed and employees hired.

It's important to understand, however, that even when all these tasks are completed and the individual finally opens their doors to customers, their work is by no means over. That's because in addition to managing operations and, of course, maintaining profitability, they must ensure they are protecting themselves from a legal perspective.

This is especially true as far as employees are concerned, as the failure to abide by the federal, state or local laws -- particularly those that relate to discrimination -- can be incredibly costly.

This naturally raises the question as to what small business owners can do to protect themselves in this regard.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, taking these simple steps will go a long way toward not only insulating small business owners from liability, but also protecting the dignity of their employees:

  • Never make employment decisions based on prohibited grounds -- race, color, sex, religion, disability, age, national origin or genetic information -- and make certain that employees are not subjected to harassment based on these same grounds
  • Create workplace policies and procedures that are reasonably related to the job and do not serve to disproportionately exclude people based on the aforementioned prohibited grounds
  • If complaints alleging discrimination or harassment are filed by an employee, respond both promptly and effectively, and ensure no retaliation is undertaken for the complaint
  • Provide equal pay to female and male employees performing the same work
  • Always supply the necessary reasonable accommodations to employees and applicants alike
  • Maintain employment records and prominently display posters outlining employee rights

Here's hoping the foregoing information has proven helpful. We'll examine some of these topics -- reasonable accommodations, discrimination, retaliation, etc. -- in greater detail in future posts. In the meantime, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional if you are a small business owner with questions or concerns relating to an employment law matter.

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