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Protecting Your Small Business from Cyber Threats

Small business owners can reach wider networks of customers, suppliers, and distributors thanks to the internet and its conveniences. It is no secret that small businesses are conducting most of their business online. The price for conducting business online has increased vulnerability to data breaches and cyber attacks from hackers.

Providing employees with email, ability to work remotely, interfacing with customers, and conducting financial transactions online has increased the potential risk of exposing one’s confidential business information to strangers and criminals. Many hackers can purchase passwords on the dark web and find small businesses an easy target for their attacks. As a small business owner today, it is a business necessity to be aware of the risks of maintaining an online business and put strategies in place for cyber security. Strategies that can be implemented with ease are as follows:

Create a Password Policy

Changing and creating unique passwords regularly every three to six months is recommended. If a password is not changed frequently, it can make its way to the dark web where it can be purchased by hackers for a nominal price. Although it is a hassle to change passwords and remember them, it is an essential practice to provide a layer of protection against cyber-attacks. Create a password policy that clearly outlines requirements for password creation for the business.

Utilize a Password Manager

Utilizing a password manager may be a good way to help manage passwords. Employees must juggle several passwords for various devices they use and keeping track of the passwords can be overwhelming. A password manager generates, retrieves, and keeps track of unique passwords for all accounts while the user keeps track of one password to unlock the password manager.

Utilize Two-Factor Authentication

Requiring a two-factor authentication is another layer of protection that can be easily implemented. This type of authentication requires another form of identification validation, such as a code or PIN number. Also, the authentication request is made via text message to verify the owner of the password. Some companies rely on a multi-factor authentication that requires additional forms of identification, such as an iris or fingerprint scan.

Firewall Protection

Utilize a firewall to prevent outsiders from accessing data on the private business network. Install firewall on employee’s home computers and laptops.

Limit Employee Access to Data and Information

Provide employees access to information that they require to perform their jobs. Limit their access to information they do not require. Also, prevent employees from installing software on work-related computers and laptops.

Mobile Devices

Employees increasingly access email and other information through their mobile devices, creating additional sources of security threats. Require password protection on their mobile devices and install encryption and security apps on them to protect the business network.

Cyber criminals take advantage of human error and vulnerability through phishing tactics. Conducting regular cyber security seminars that alert employees to the risks and threats of their online behavior is a good way to increase awareness.

The small business lawyers at MacMain Connell & Leinhauser provide advice on a broad array of services related to small businesses, including protecting your business from cyber-attacks. For an initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 484-318-7106. Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Philadelphia and Chester County.

Should I Hire an Attorney to Assist with Employee Contracts?

One of the most important processes of hiring new employees is to draft appropriate, comprehensive employment contracts. Even if it is a small company, using only verbal agreements or policy handbooks may not be sufficient to protect employers from unforeseen situations that may arise after people are hired. Enforcing verbal contracts can be especially challenging for employers, especially ones that were not specific when discussed.

In general, an employment contract documents all the shared responsibilities and rights between an employer and a W-2 worker, 1099 contracted employee, or freelancer. There are standard items that should be in all employment contracts, as well as other variables that may apply.

The Basics

A basic employment contract needs to include the employee’s full legal name, the position they are being hired for, their responsibilities, and their location and working hours. Whether the job is salaried or hourly, the compensation rate should be clearly stated, along with medical/dental benefits, time off, and life insurance, if applicable. An effective employment agreement should also cover employee stock options and retirement packages.

Other important items include if the employee is employed at-will. This means that the company may terminate the worker at any time without reason, and that the employee may also quit without reason. A process for resolving grievances should also be included, and it is common for these agreements to specify that disputes be resolved via arbitration.

Employment Agreement Clauses

The agreements may also have clauses for non-solicitation, non-disclosure, and non-compete. These can be very important, especially for employees that work in competitive industries and have valuable clients and confidential information. Non-solicitation agreements protect companies from having customers stolen by past employees. This is applicable to medical practices, hair salons, and many other lines of work.

Non-disclosures are designed to prevent employees from sharing sensitive information during and after employment. This applies to confidential details about the company and its clients. Non-competes prevent employees from going into competition with former employers for specified time periods and distances. In other words, should an employee that works for a computer consulting company quit, they may not open or work for a similar company within one year that is located 10 miles away.

How Problems Arise

Every state has different employment and labor laws, so drafting and enforcing an employment agreement may be difficult for a business owner. A disgruntled employee may decide to file a wrongful termination suit, and if the original employment agreement is lacking in any way, the employer may be vulnerable.

Employment agreements may be deemed invalid in court if they have incomplete information or are not worded clearly. If an employee begins working without a contract and signs it later, the contract may be termed as void, if its original terms do not correspond with the employee’s later duties. Other problems can arise if the agreement’s terms do not correspond with state laws. Federal laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Family and Medical Leave Act should also be taken into consideration when drafting an employment agreement.

The knowledgeable employment lawyers at MacMain Connell & Leinhauser can be a valuable resource for creating employment contracts to best serve your company’s needs. For an initial consultation, call us at 484-318-7106 or complete an online form. Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Philadelphia and Chester County.

What is the Federal Labor Standards Act?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) governs the standards employers must follow regarding wages, including payment of overtime, full-time, and part-time workers, employment of children, and notice and record keeping requirements of private and government employees. The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) administers and enforces the FLSA. Noncompliance can lead to FLSA lawsuits. The trend in private prosecutions of FLSA violations is rising. If an employer is liable, they may face legal fees, penalties, and may also have to pay back lost wages.

Application of the FLSA

The FLSA applies to employers who are engaged in interstate commerce. Specifically, it applies to enterprises with employees who engage in interstate commerce, produce goods for interstate commerce, or handle, sell, or work on goods or materials that were moved in or produced for interstate commerce. Most businesses are subject to the law, as most current businesses conduct business online. The enterprise must also meet the $500,000 annual dollar volume test to comply. However, hospitals, businesses providing medical and nursing care, schools, and public agencies need to meet FLSA requirements, even if they do not satisfy the $500,000 annual dollar value test.

Minimum Wage

As of 2018, the minimum wage set by the FLSA for covered, nonexempt workers is $7.25 an hour. However, if the state where the employee works has a higher hourly rate, and the state wage law applies to the employer, then the employer needs to pay the higher amount.

Overtime Pay

The FLSA mandates that employers pay employees the minimum rate of one-and-one-half times their regular pay rate when exceeding 40 hours per week. Furthermore, employers need to comply with record keeping requirements of the employee’s wages. However, some workers may be exempt from receiving overtime pay.

Child Labor

Under the FLSA, children under 16 years of age must work limited hours and can only perform certain types of work. Hours are restricted during school days to three hours a day. They are also restricted to certain jobs in retail, tutoring, and delivery jobs.

Notification Requirements

Employers also need to put up prominent notifications of employee rights regarding wages and overtime under the FLSA. There are a variety of posters available describing employee rights and should be posted in a conspicuous place for employees to read and consult.

The employment attorneys at MacMain Connell & Leinhauser are well versed in federal and state laws and offer a full range of services in employment litigation. For an initial consultation, contact us online or by call us at 484-318-7106. Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Philadelphia and Chester County.

Small Business Defenses to Defamation Lawsuits

Small business lawyers at will knowledgeably defend your business against defamatory statements.Defamation occurs when false statements are made against another that damages their reputation. When false statements are made in writing, it is libel, while slander occurs due to verbal false statements. Plaintiffs who bring defamation lawsuits must demonstrate that they suffered monetary losses as a result of the defamation. Therefore, to establish a cause of action in defamation, the plaintiff must demonstrate the following:

  • The statement was communicated to another either in writing or verbally
  • The statement was false
  • The statement caused harm and injury to the plaintiff’s reputation
  • The statement was not otherwise privileged

Defenses to an Accusation of Defamation

  • Truth. For a statement to be deemed defamatory, the statement must be false. If the statement was true, then it does not constitute defamation. By proving truth of the matter, a defamation accusation can be successfully defended.
  • Opinion. If the statement is an opinion, it cannot be defamatory, even when it is harmful. Editorials or critiques are examples of statements that may be harmful but do not constitute defamation.
  • Consent. When a statement is made with consent, it cannot be defamatory. However, unless the consent was given in writing, it may be hard to prove that the statement was consented.
  • Absolute Privilege. Political speech, advertisements, and spousal communications are privileged communications. Legislators are also protected for statements they make during legislative sessions.
  • Qualified Privilege. This is a privilege for making statements under a legal, moral, or social duty. The person must show that the statement was made without malice, in good faith, and with belief that the statement was true.

Small Business Employers

Small business employers may fear a defamation lawsuit from former employees for providing references. Another example may be found in instances where employers make fair criticisms in review of the employee. However, what employers say about their former employees may be subject to a qualified privilege defense. If the employer can demonstrate that the statements were made without malice, in good faith, and believing it to be true, there may be no finding of defamation. Employers should obtain consent forms from employees about providing references and information regarding them on their behalf. These consent forms can later be used as a defense to a defamation lawsuit.

Trade Libel

Small business owners may be accused of or subject to trade libels. Negative comments by customers or competitors can be detrimental to small business owners. Trade libel occurs when defamatory statements are made about a business’ services or products. The same defenses outlined above apply in a trade libel suit.

If your business was subjected to defamatory statements or your business was accused of making such statements, contact our legal team at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser for expert advice on such litigation matters. Contact us online or call us at 484-318-7106 today for an initial consultation. Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Philadelphia.