What Small Businesses Should Do to Protect Employees from Catastrophic Weather

As an employer, there are many things that you must consider when it comes to the safety of your employees. Installing alarm systems and security lights, ensuring that walk ways are free from debris, and maintaining machinery are just a few examples. However, one thing that many employers overlook is safety from weather conditions.

Severe weather can happen at any time. Depending on the area of the country in which you live, you may be faced with tornadoes, hurricanes, winter snow storms, heavy thunderstorms, or even earthquakes. It is crucial that you have a weather emergency plan implemented in your place of business.
storm shelter
What You Can Do To Keep Your Employees Safe

• Have a designated emergency shelter area. You want to make sure that there is a safe place that your employees can retreat to in the event of strong storms, tornadoes, or hurricanes. You may want to have an empty supply closet or meeting room designated. Create specific instructions for your employees to follow in these types of situations.

• Make snow removal plans early. Make sure that you have a snow removal service in place to ensure clear walks and driveways. Coat these areas with the appropriate de-icing agents to ensure that they do not become too slippery for safe passage.

Have a fire contingency plan in place. Fire Drills are not just for school kids. Make sure that all your exits properly work and are always accessible. Review your fire drill procedures monthly with your employees.

• Review building codes and regulations. Make sure that the office/building that you are in is in compliance with all building code regulations for weather. As reviewed by Indianapolis personal injury attorney, Randy Sevenish, “Personal injury or “tort” claims cover a wide range of physical or emotional injuries caused by another’s actions or failure to account for (a victim’s) safety.” If you have employees in a hurricane area, for example, you will want to ensure that you have the proper glass in your windows to withstand high winds. If you are in a heavy snow area, you will want to ensure that your roofing is fit to carry the weight of the snow.

• Provide first aid that’s readily available. If an emergency occurs, you also want to be prepared to administer any type of emergency care possible. This may include having compresses that can be “cracked” to provide cold or heat relief and bandages. If possible, have a way to contact emergency personnel included with your kit.

If you are not sure how to go about creating an employee emergency plan, or what should be included, you are encouraged to contact a personal injury attorney for advice. An attorney that specializes in injuries can offer the best advice on how to prevent injuries to a business owner. Additionally, a personal injury attorney can review your current plans to ensure that they are complete and in compliance with any laws in your area.

One of the best ways that an employer can prevent injuries from occurring, even during a weather event, is to be prepared. Have a plan in place, and make sure that your employees are trained in all aspects of this plan. Implement safety meetings, and depending on the season, review the weather safety protocols at those meetings.

As a news writer and reporter, Ann Bailey covered numerous emergency weather conditions, now compiling these steps for business owners to follow. Indianapolis personal injury attorney, Randy Sevenish works strenuously for compensation for his clients involved in injury accidents at the fault of their employers or other liable parties.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usacehq/5913266168/

 

Protecting the Merchandise: What Business Owners Should Tell Employees About Shoplifting

Dee DeeEmployees are responsible for a large percentage of retail theft. Internal thieves can embezzle funds from the register, activate and spend gift cards and take product off the loading dock and put it into the trash to pick it up after their shift. Employers must take steps to reduce the amount of employee theft while simultaneously treating their employees with the appropriate level of respect. This can be deceptively challenging.

Internal Theft and the Employer’s Rights

Employers have the right to retain their property and not have it stolen by their workers. To enforce their property rights, employers may take certain measures to monitor employees. Employers have the right to monitor employees on camera in areas in which they have no reasonable expectation of privacy or in which they have consented to being monitored. The employment agreement and all entrances to the building should contain an advisement that the employee is being monitored on video and audio. Employers may not record restrooms.

In some states, employers also have a right to use force. This so-called “shopkeeper’s privilege” simply allows the shopkeeper to use reasonable force to detain a thief until the police arrive. If an employee is suspected of theft, the employer may detain the employee to investigate the matter. This is generally not advised, as crossing the line from a reasonable detention to a false arrest or false imprisonment is easy, as is using excessive force. Employers may also contact the police when they believe that an employee is stealing to arrest or cite the employee.

In practice, using physical force against a thieving employee is usually unnecessary. Employers have a large amount of detailed personal information regarding their employees and fleeing the scene will not help the employee evade apprehension. Additionally, many employees and employers would prefer to keep small-scale thefts out of court. For limited thefts, employers will usually terminate an employee and not press charges. Instead, the employee and employer will make other arrangements, such as compensating the business, resigning voluntarily, and staying away from the business.

Gracefully Warning Employees Not to Steal

Employees expect to be treated fairly. Explicitly holding an organizational meeting and advising employees not to steal implies that at least some of the employees are potential thieves. While employee theft comprises a large portion of all retail shrinkage, calling attention to the issue will reduce employee morale. Employers who treat employees as thieves will offend employees and incur a high turnover rate, which costs the organization money.

At the same time, employers must have clear guidelines expressly spelled out for all employees in the event that an employee does steal. The best way to deal with such competing issues is to address the issue directly in the employee manual and indirectly in person. The employee manual should specify that theft is an offense that will result in immediate termination and prosecution to the fullest extent of the law. If an employee steals anyway, always follow through on the manual. Including a provision in the manual discussing the legal consequences of the theft may also be prudent.

Indirectly addressing the issue in person requires tact. When orienting a new employee or installing a new system, employers should take the employee or employees on a brief tour of the building. Point out all available cameras, including those over the cash registers, in the stockrooms, and near the trashcans outside. Do not raise the issue of employee theft; instead, point out the surveillance system and all security features as a precaution designed to protect employees in the event of a crime. This sends a message to potential thieves without sending any offensive messages.

Employee Theft and the Law

Anyone who steals merchandise can face a variety of charges, but as one Ellicott City criminal defense attorney has noted, “the severity of this type of charge in Maryland increases if you steal from your employer.” Thieving employees are often charged with either larceny or theft. Larceny occurs where one takes and carries away the personal property of another with the intent to permanently deprive the owner for the actor’s own gain. Theft is similar, but the goal of theft is to take the item for pecuniary gain. If an employee steals an item because they intend to use the item, it will usually be a larceny charge; if an employee steals an item with the intent of reselling it, the charge will normally be theft.

Larceny and theft are segmented further into petty larceny or theft and grand larceny or theft. Petty theft or larceny is usually a misdemeanor while grand theft or larceny is generally a felony. The value of the property determines whether an act of theft or larceny is petty or grand, and different jurisdictions apply different values differently depending upon the property. A felony record is far more damaging to an employee’s long-term prospects than a misdemeanor conviction, as a felon loses certain rights and employers frequently discriminate against felons.

If the employee was entrusted with the property, the employee may be charged with embezzlement. Embezzlement occurs where one wrongfully converts property owned by someone else and entrusted to the actor’s care to the actor’s own use. This commonly occurs with cashiers pocketing funds in a retail setting; employees will not ring up sales or ring up sales for a lesser sum and pocket the difference. Embezzlement can be a misdemeanor or a felony depending upon the amount.

A burglary charge may also be added to the underlying charges. If the employee entered the building with the intent to commit a felony, regardless of whether the employee used force, the employee may be charged with burglary. Burglary is a felony independent of any other felonies with which an employee may be charged like felony embezzlement or grand theft. Burglary is a serious crime and often results in jail time.

Employees who violate the law can face a variety of harsh penalties, but many do not. Businesses are often reluctant to press charges for petty offenses and the low wages and high turnover of retail workers ensures that there is no end of potential suspects. Combating internal theft requires visible deterrents and a culture of open communication with management. At the same time, employees accused of misconduct are always entitled to a strong legal defense. Employees who are charged with an internal crime should contact experienced legal counsel to help address the charges. A single mistake does not define anyone’s character and it should not follow a person for the rest of his or her life.

 
Ann Bailey is a former news writer and shares these warnings with any small business owner who may need encouragement in combating employee theft.

Forget About Winning against the War on Workplace Injuries, Facts That You Cannot Ignore

People like to believe that they are safe even when their lives seems to be hanging by a thread. This is a common human psychology and there is no way you can change this. And as this mentality is deeply rooted, it is no wonder that business organizations still continue to ignore those workplace safety issues that could have led to life threatening incidents. Originations feel that they are doing a commendable job as the injury rates are down compared to last year and the safety system seems to be working fine like a well oiled machine. And out of this complacency, organizations start relaxing and giving less attention to things that could play a decisive role during a life and death circumstance. No matter, how bullet proof the safety system of a workplace may look like, there will always be some rooms for improvements and you can only identify those areas only when you start realizing the fact that your safety system is not perfect, in fact, far from being perfect.

However, I am not saying that you have to waste your hard earn money on some trivial issues that would have zero impact or little impact on the safety system of your workplace. When you are spending too much time and efforts on trivial things, chances will be that you may miss out on crucial things that could spell doom for the safety of your workers. Moreover, as our business models are changing all the time and we are embracing new technologies to give productivity a shot in the arm, the existing safety systems starts becoming obsolete. For this reason, you can never claim that your workplace is perfectly ‘safe’   for workers because of the dynamic nature of your business. But for some unknown reasons some business owners have started believing that they have won the battle against the menace of workplace injury; but when you start believing in things so absurd, you are going to lose the battle for sure. Here are some other ways to lose the battle against the menace of workplace injuries

Image Source - http://www.flickr.com/photos/kendrak/3769525335/
Image Source – http://www.flickr.com/photos/kendrak/3769525335/

We Know it All Attitude:

When we enter a new place or face a new situation, we take every possible precaution to get used to that. We follow the rules carefully and think twice before making a move as we are not sure when a problem may crop up. But as soon as we realize that we have gathered enough information about the situation and how to tackle it, we start messing up. We become comfortable with things and this is exactly where we start making mistakes. However, you may argue that we get used to things as we gather more inputs about the work that we are going on a regular basis, but you also cannot refute the fact that this experience also puts you in greater danger as you become oblivious of the obvious dangers in some jobs.

workers
Image Source – http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaxport/7657583704/

We are Over Confident

You have probably heard this hundreds of time before – ‘Change is the only constant thing in the world’, but you might have never given it a serious thought. If you have, you would have certainly realized that workplace hazards, just like any other things in the world, change and evolve and that means, you have to be proactive and find out the flaws in your safety system on regular basis. But as it appears, people tend to ignore this as they grow a feeling that they have won the war against the hazards.  As the perception of dangers starts diminishing, the probability of hazards increases. Therefore, you have to accept that your safety system is not 100% perfect and there is always some room for improvements.

Disruptive Technology

Induction of a new technology does not necessarily mean that it is going to add positive effect in your organization’s safety and security system. People might find it really tough to deal with the new technology and they might make silly mistakes that could have led to minor or major injuries. So, whenever you are inducting new technologies, you have to make sure that people who are going to use this are at ease with it otherwise, it might have negative impacts on the whole production process.

About the Author: This article is contributed by Michael Evans who is associated with Mobile Safety Steps, which is UK’s leading manufacturer of safety steps.  Visit our website.

Home Business for New Parents: How a Play Crib Can Help You Organize

In order to spend more time with their babies and to cut child care costs, parents are opting to do business from home instead of at the office. Working from home with a baby can be challenging, and it requires structure, organization and the right tools.

Home Office needs Playard

The Right Crib

An all-in-one playpen and crib, or playard, can provide the most comfortable and safe setting for your child to nap and play. With a set of built-in toys, your baby can be entertained while you work from home. Toys with noises and melodies, bright colors and plush materials can be soothing and fun. As your child begins to grow, you’ll want to make sure the crib remains a safe environment, and they’re unable to get into dangerous situations by climbing out unnoticed.

A Routine to Enjoy

It may be rough at the beginning to get into a routine as you try to balance work and a new baby. However, as the weeks go on, you’ll be able to establish a more realistic plan for how to spend the day. You’re going to have to practice flexibility, and you may be required to get more work done when your baby naps and after bedtime. If your child is on the floor, you can take the laptop down next to them while they play. It may be fun reading your work out loud to your baby. They won’t understand what you’re saying, but the inflection in your soothing voice with be helpful with their language development.

Portable Baby Carrier

Another way to keep your baby close is with a baby carrier or portable bassinet. Infants are especially comforted when they’re close to a parent during the early stages after birth. A carrier allows you the freedom to work on the computer with your child attached close to your chair.

Age Appropriate Toys

The age appropriate toys in an activity center are designed to keep your baby entertained. The average attention span of an child is figured as three to five minutes per year of the child’s age. Changing activities can be easy when you have the right tools. A bouncy chair mimics a parent’s gentle bounce and comes with a host of activities to keep your baby entertained. Baby mats and activity gyms are just as fun for your child, especially when you add plush toy animals and rattles. Baby swings and playards are also popular with stay at home parents. Make sure to position the equipment so that it not only faces you, but it is close to you and your work station. In addition to making them fun and entertaining for your child, choosing the right toy should also be important to their development and coordination.

The All Important Break

You don’t want your home business environment to be all work and chaos. The advantage to working at home is that you get to spend time with your baby, so you need to make sure you take a few breaks. Taking time out to play or read a story can promote bonding and relieve stress from a busy day.

Making money is important when you set up your business at home. However, it’s just as important to spend quality time and make special memories together too.

A work at home parent, Ann Bailey posts these reminders for new parents in a home-based business. Kids II, an innovative child equipment company, offers the Bright Starts playard activity and safety crib for all parents’ peace of mind about their infant’s health, comfort, inspiration and safety.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dharrels/3095646139/

 

 

 

New Hampshire Storm Recovery: Is it Safe to go Back to the Office?

Flooded Workshop

The year 2012 was not kind to the Northeast. Many buildings were damaged by severe weather, leaving property owners with the task of clearing up damage from wind and water. Hurricane Sandy brought flying debris, shattered windows, and flooded buildings, causing clear structural damage. Some of the damage is less obvious; flood-waters can introduce mold and other contaminants into buildings and cause electrical issues. If a damaged building is not fully repaired before work resumes, employees can get hurt.

Property Owners and Premises Liability

New Hampshire closely follows other jurisdictions in setting the liability that property owners have to individuals on their land. In New Hampshire, property owners have a general duty to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition. This duty includes a duty to warn persons about hazardous conditions on the land and take action to protect them from reasonably foreseeable harm. A failure to warn about the defect, remedy the defect, or act reasonably will render the property owner liable for any injuries that result. Unlike other states, New Hampshire does not distinguish between invitees, licensees, and trespassers.

This distinction largely applies to guests, first responders, and other people who are not employees. If a non-employee is injured as a result of a condition on the land, injury lawyers NH can guide them as the above test applies. If the owner did not provide an adequate warning to the non-employee about the hazard and if the owner did not repair the harm, the property owner will be liable for the non-employee’s injuries. Injuries to employees are different; they are not normally handled through the tort system.

Workers’ Compensation

When an employee is injured at work, the employee will be compensated for his or her injuries through the state’s workers’ compensation program. This applies whether the injury was a cut from broken glass, electrical shock from a shorting outlet, blunt force trauma from a physically collapsing structure, or a long-term illness arising from exposure to mold. The nature of the injury matters little; if it was incurred while acting within the course and scope of one’s employment, it will be covered.

Workers’ compensation in New Hampshire offers injured parties a variety of benefits. In all cases, the employer will pay the employee’s medical costs including hospital care and rehabilitative costs. Employees are entitled to 60 percent of their wages if they are unable to perform any work. If the injured claimant can perform some light work, the injured claimant will be entitled to 60 percent of the difference between his or her old salary and his or her new salary. Claimants receiving full disability benefits, no Social Security Benefits and less than 60 percent of New Hampshire’s average wage are also entitled to a cost of living adjustment after three years.

Not all workers’ compensation claims are paid immediately. If the insurer believes that more documentation will be necessary, the insurer may delay payment until it is satisfied or deny an otherwise legitimate claim. If a legitimate claim is denied or if the insurer is making frivolous requests, contacting the state’s Department of Labor and lodging a complaint may resolve the situation. Those employees not covered under workers’ compensation should consult with a personal injury attorney to discuss options for recovering compensation. A lawsuit for negligence may be possible.

Ann Bailey has formerly reported for daily news outlets and offers these distinctions to help anyone injured while at an office in New Hampshire. Tenn And Tenn, PA are injury lawyers NH that represent clients for maximum recovery of their wages and benefits lost because of their office and other work injuries.

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Business Delivery Service: What Happens When there’s an Accident?

Minott's Flowers - Delivery Time

Home delivery is a convenient feature for consumers and a competitive advantage for businesses. Many small businesses offer home delivery to make consumption easier for customers. Unfortunately, time on the roads results in greater exposure to severe weather, poor drivers, and other traffic hazards. When an accident occurs on one of the deliveries, businesses should take preventative action to avoid liability. This is the case regardless of whether the employee was at fault. Failure to do so may lead to a frivolous claim.

Determine Whether the Employee Is Injured

Avoiding liability is important, but the health and safety of all employees comes first. Money and company vehicles can be replaced; life cannot be easily replaced. If the accident was sufficient to disable or severely damage the vehicle, the employee may be injured. If the employee is injured, he or she will probably be receiving medical attention by the time the restaurant owner is notified of the incident; if not, encourage the employee to visit a doctor for an examination.

If an employee is injured, determine whether the employee is able to come back to work relatively soon. If the employee will be unable to return to work at his or her full capacity, provide the employee with the appropriate paperwork to file for workers’ compensation. The forms will provide the employer with legal notice of the injury and an application for workers’ compensation. The employer will need to fill out its own workers’ compensation form, OWC-8, and submit it to the Department of Employment Services no longer than 10 days after receiving knowledge of the employee’s injury.

Collect As Much Documentation As Possible

In any accident in which the worker was not at fault, it is still possible that the other driver will attempt to file a lawsuit of some type. In these cases, documentation will be key to thwarting the plaintiff. Collect police reports, the employee’s driving history, and any other documentation relevant to the collision. The insurance company will want a copy of the police report unless the at-fault party admits liability.

Repair Or Replace The Damaged Vehicle

If the accident involved a delivery vehicle owned by the restaurant, replacing the vehicle in a timely manner is important. The vehicle is an important revenue generating asset. Begin the claims process as soon as is practical. Alternatively, contact the business’ insurance provider and file a claim with them; this may result in a quicker replacement of the vehicle, but may also result in increased rates. Discuss the matter thoroughly with the business’ insurance provider before filing a claim with them. Do not admit fault to either insurer.

Protect Yourself with Legal Counsel

If the other driver was at fault, a car accident lawyer will be useful in warding off frivolous claims. Automobile accidents involving commercial drivers can involve claims against the business, regardless of whether the business or the driver was actually at fault. Plaintiffs will sue the driver and the business, arguing that the business is vicariously liable for the driver’s perceived negligence. Additionally, plaintiffs will allege negligence on the part of the business, usually under the theory that the business owner failed to train the employee in proper driving procedures, failed to supervise the employee while driving, failed to verify the driver’s record, or other numerous theories of liability.

If an employee is involved in a collision while acting within the course and scope of his or her employment, businesses should prepare for a workers’ compensation claim and even a civil lawsuit. If the other driver feels that he or she was not at fault or if the other driver simply believes that he or she can get quick money with a frivolous claim, mounting a legal defense may be necessary. If an accident occurs, ensure that the employee is well, document the incident, and seek advice from legal counsel.

With small business owners in mind, Ann Bailey shares these helpful steps for coping with an employee work-related traffic accident. The Virginia car accident lawyer group at Price Benowitz LLP is on hand in the greater D.C. area to assist any client’s delivery business against frivolous claims in the event of a driver collision.

Photo Credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/therichbrooks/4090669986/

 

When Office Conditions Are Hazardous: Who Protects the Boss?

Lawsuits and liabilities definitely aren’t the first things that a person considers when they dream of owning their own business and being their own boss. Unfortunately, it’s a reality that they must face. Whether from an employee or customer, small business owners often face liability when injuries occur in their place of business. There are times, however, when simply being in an office building can be dangerous, even for the boss. It’s important for all who own businesses to recognize these risks and respond accordingly.

Broken windowsDangers that Business Owners Face

The only negligent parties people usually think about in office building environments are employers and workers, but the owner of the property can also cause injuries through their negligence. It is the duty of those who own and manage the property to ensure a safe environment for those who occupy offices in their building, and when they don’t, everyone, including the resident shop keeper, can suffer consequences.

  • Fire Hazards Fire hazards can be especially disastrous. If a business property is set up in any way that blocks exits, prevents early detection or creates a fire hazard, the landlord can be liable for any injuries caused by the incident.
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that can cause illness or worse in human beings. This gas can come from furnaces, gas powered engines and even refrigerators. The effects of this gas are deadly, and this applies to anyone, employee and management alike, who works in the building.
  • Undisclosed Dangers Any hazard in an office building that a property manager should have knowledge of is their direct responsibility to fix. A landlord who should’ve known that mold was growing in the duct system, for instance, could be held liable for illness related injuries that were caused due to the negligent act of not fixing the issue.

Preventing Injuries

Being proactive is the most promising way of avoiding injuries. Even though property locations are required to be safe, it never hurts for a tenant business to be vigilant in ensuring the safety of themselves and their workers. They should start by ensuring there are no fire hazards in the office.

-Check that all fire detectors are functioning properly

Ensure that any windows that are supposed to open actually do

-Make sure that no exits are blocked or sealed

-Report any electrical problem to building management immediately

There are also ways to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning or death. The easiest is to invest in a CO detector. Also, if everyone in an office starts experiencing flu-like symptoms, a carbon monoxide leak may be the culprit. It’s important to report this or any other strange occurrence or danger that exists in an office to the premises manager.

Responding to Hazards

Whether you listen to a Santa Barbara or a Syracuse personal injury lawyer, you will hear that the critically important thing to do is report any possible hazards as soon as you notice them. Unfortunately, sometimes these hazards don’t become apparent until an injury actually takes place. In these cases it’s important to find an attorney who can help with the issue since medical and office bills can quickly add up.

Business bosses have the same rights as anyone else; when they’re injured due to another’s negligence, in this case the landlord’s, they’re likely to lose considerable money and have the right to compensation. It’s sometimes difficult to prove, however, that the property owner should’ve known about the danger. This is why it’s so imperative to have an injury attorney go over the situation and figure out exactly how the claim should be handled.

Accidents can happen anywhere, and unfortunately, even when shop keepers follow all safety guidelines, injuries can occur. Many of these injuries can affect workers, clients and even the owner themselves. It’s important for them to know their rights in these situations, particularly when the injury was caused by a malfunction in office space they are leasing. Being proactive and responding accordingly are a small business boss’s best methods of protection.

A prior TV news host, Ann Bailey shares these sympathetic tips for business owners who suffer from landlord negligence. The Syracuse personal injury lawyer firm, Bottar Leone PLLC, fights strenuously for compensation and maximum support for their clients injured in office buildings or other work locations in the upstate New York area.

Photo Credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/benhusmann/4620235686/

 

The Internet and Customer Service – You’re in the Spotlight!

Money at handPoor customer service negatively impacts businesses in a lot of ways, and can create irreversible results with both new and repeat clients. First, prospects that you’d like to turn into customers will likely change their minds. Secondly, existing customers will become frustrated and take their business elsewhere. And both have the potential to cause damage when they report their experiences to others. In this digital age, customers share information with the click of a button, making it even more important to head off service issues at once. 

Hearing the Complaints

When a disgruntled internet customer makes a complaint, the best thing for any business to do is to have that complaint settled quickly by the company. Normally, having customer grievances “go public” makes it harder to deal with them and harder to effect some damage control. There are however, beneficial third party services that allow mistreated customers to air their valid complaints with the intent that the offending business will listen. Management that wants to stay in business wants to listen. Since you’re not seeing the customer in person, getting a chance to hear and solve gripes this way often allows resolution in a timely manner and with little effort. It’s not hard either to imagine the good PR that comes from being perceived as a big business that listens.

Small Business Catastrophe

Poor customer service is catastrophic for small internet companies because they absolutely rely upon repeat customers to survive. Additionally, if there is ever going to be hope of growing the business, prospects must be nurtured so that they turn into loyal shoppers. Positive word of mouth is always key for growth, especially for smaller firms.

Loss of Repeat Customers

Losing a long-time customer is a danger when poor service is allowed. If consumers arrive to your site and are ignored, treated with disrespect, or left alone to wander through pages and wait for service, the clear message they’ll get is that there could be a risk in spending their money here. As a result, many of these people will leave before even considering making a purchase, no matter what types of deals might be found. In fact, customer service is so important that many people are willing to pay more for it, just to feel like their time was well spent.

Loss of Future Customers

Customers experiencing poor online service almost always tell others about it – it makes for grand conversation. Whether out of frustration or because they don’t want their friends and family to have the same bad customer issue, people will relate details of experiences that upset them. Not only does this cost immediate business, but the lost business potential will be exponential over time. Making amends to a new customer who has registered a complaint often takes more input since they don’t have a positive memory of your company to “come back to.”

Employee Turnover

Great operations attract better employees. After all, no one wants to work in a chaotic environment where they are under-trained or where inadequate staff exists. This type of environment creates an unpleasant morale and leads to high turnover which is hard on everyone. Additionally, it does not reflect well on a company to appear as though it cannot sustain its staff. Thorough training of the entire staff in good customer interaction and company loyalty procedures may be the best investment for any business owner who needs to improve service reputation.

Loss of Profits

Everything connected to poor customer service ultimately leads to bottom line losses. No firm, particularly in a challenging business climate, can afford to lose business due to poor customer service. When it comes down to it, the most important aspect of any business is its reputation. Once that is damaged, it can be very hard to recoup it without a great deal of work.

For any internet business, new or long established, the fears of sudden drops in customer satisfaction, customer purchases, and customer traffic are all too real. Every effort should be made to maintain client loyalty and business reputation at all times by offering the best customer service available. Being dependable to listen to and solve any customer gripes in timely fashion will go a long way toward cementing high satisfaction scores.

Ann Bailey owns a small business dependent on client satisfaction and compiles these situations for consumers and business owners alike. The accessible website Gripevine.com allows consumers a place to voice any customer issue they may have had with poor service and allows the relevant business an opportunity to hear about it and take measures to correct it.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/23905174@N00/2438005410/

 

 

Small Businesses with Government Contracts: Why Play by the Rules?

Alcatraz

Running a small business can be rewarding, especially if you’re able to land lucrative government contracts. Many government contracts allow small businesses to not only expand and grow, but also to gain a name for themselves within the business community. Unfortunately, some small businesses jeopardize these benefits when they don’t play by the rules, and the consequences for such actions can be dire.

Breaking the Rules and the Law

Many small business owners understand the unspoken rules regarding ethics in business and morality when doing business with a government agency, but too few understand that breaking these unspoken rules can actually lead to criminal and civil prosecution. Under the False Claims Act, business owners who have contractual business obligations to the government may face a variety of penalties upon being caught breaking the rules, and this can land such business owners in court and behind bars.

What is the False Claims Act?

The False Claims Act is a law that essentially allows individuals to prosecute contractors in court if the contractors are found to be defrauding the government. Referred to as “whistleblowers,” they generally stand to earn a handsome reward for their efforts in the form of monetary gain if a False Claims Act case is successful. Basically, a whistleblower acting on behalf of the government will be due a portion of the award handed down by a judge once a such a case succeeds, and this amount can reach into the millions of dollars or more depending upon the severity of the infractions and the contract’s terms.

Can Business Owners Benefit?

Aside from the potentially negative consequences of the False Claims Act for small business owners, there actually is a bright side. If you are able to prove that your competition is defrauding the government, you can contact a False Claims Act attorney and take it upon yourself to bring the fraud to light. By doing this, you’re not only helping the government and tax payers save money, but you’re also doing the right thing – of course, potentially putting your competition out of business and receiving a financial reward doesn’t hurt either.

Be in the Know

If you’re unsure as to whether or not your business is acting within compliance of your government contract, you might want to consider partnering with a False Claims Act attorney to discuss the issue. They will be able to review your contract and your practices, allowing you to find potential trouble spots that need to be addressed or corrected. Doing this will also help you to remain protected in the event that someone does blow the whistle on your business as a Whistleblower’s attorney will be able to represent and protect your interests in court.

Finally, as a small business owner who has a contract with the government, it’s up to you to ensure that all of your employees understand the severity of breaking the rules and the law. Even if an employee goes off on his or her own and commits fraud, you and your company may still get the blame. As a result, most experts recommend regular training sessions for all employees regarding the correct ways to conduct contractual business with the government.

Ann Bailey has formerly reported on business fraud for TV news and shares this report for employers who might be in contract positions. The attorneys at Goldberg Kohn aggressively represent clients involved in court-suits due to the False Claims Act or any business to government fraud situation.

Photo Credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/caitlinator/3044373233/

 

Premises Liability: Proper Outfitting for Your Small Business Location

Business owners face a variety of legal hassles when operating a business. Obtaining permits, collecting and paying taxes, and dealing with the ever present possibility of litigation can be cumbersome. Small business owners who operate a business that is open to the public also have a duty to keep their property free of hidden hazards. Failure to do so may result in liability for negligence.

premise liability
Image by mattj

Hazardous Conditions

One important note is that the property does not have to be free of hazardous conditions. The hazardous conditions must be latent, or hidden to be a liability. Additionally, the law normally requires the business owner to know about the condition or at least be in a condition where he or she should have known about it. This responsibility extends to the employees. Spills happen, people drop glass items, and individuals come into the store while physically ill on a regular basis. If the business uses a larger property with few employees, taking an occasional walk throughout the business to check for hazards or signs of theft may be a good idea.

With a small business, hazardous but hidden conditions can appear in a variety of ways. Obstructed or slippery floors can result in a slip and fall injury; oil, water, and ice are often invisible on the neutral-colored linoleum used by many small businesses. If the building is open during construction or maintenance, visitors may also encounter exposed wiring. If items are improperly stacked or if the shelves are of poor construction, items may fall off the shelves and onto customers, causing serious injury.

Protecting Yourself From Liability

The Perecman Firm says that, “property owners [at least] in New York are responsible for keeping people on their property reasonably safe from injury.” However, business owners who do not know or could not reasonably have known about the defect may not have a duty to repair it. Courts in most states hold the business owner liable for his or her constructive knowledge if the hazardous condition was caused by an employee; in other words, the business may be sued if the owner’s agent caused the defect. As a result, claiming ignorance of a defect is not normally a good tactic to avoid litigation.

Business owners can satisfy their duty to their customers in two ways. The first is through the use of warnings. Warnings can include signage, caution tape, fencing, or any other similar measure that would cause a reasonable person to recognize the hazardous condition. The second way to avoid liability for injuries stemming from the hazardous condition is by repairing the condition itself. By removing the danger altogether, business owners can avoid customer injuries.

The Issue of Negligence

Most U.S. states use a doctrine known as comparative negligence. In these states, a plaintiff who suffers an injury as a result of another party’s negligence may recover even if he or she was largely responsible for the injury in the first place. Different states have different rules on the matter; some states require that the defendant be at least 50 percent negligent to recover anything. However, some states do not have any cutoff limit. In those states, a slow-witted plaintiff can recover at least some damages even if he or she was 99 percent at fault for the accident.

This is important because when it comes to warnings, it does not take much to make a colorable argument that the defendant was one percent negligent or even ten percent negligent. Simply arguing that more signs, more warning lights, better placement of existing signs, or auditory signals would have reduced the probability of an injury happening can be enough to convince a jury that the store owner bears some of the responsibility for the accident. Warnings should only be used while the hazardous condition is being repaired, such as when an employee is getting a mop or a broom. From a liability standpoint, fixing the condition will be better than simply leaving a warning sign alerting customers to the defect.

When a hazardous condition appears on the property, owners have a duty to either repair the condition or warn customers away from it. In practice, most business owners will use a combination of the two approaches. For example, if water or ice is spilled in an aisle, posting temporary signage or briefly closing the aisle while an employee finds a mop and a bucket is a common tactic that businesses use to avoid liability. Closing a section of the store briefly while a defect is being repaired may cost the store a percentage of its daily sales, but it will be much less expensive than paying for an injured customer’s medical bills.

About the Author: Saam Banai is a freelance writer and editor and proponent of safe business practices.