Computing mega-corporation Microsoft has been served with a patent infringement lawsuit. A small data mining company is suing the Windows operating system’s maker over technology it believes has been stolen from it.
MasterMine’s lawsuit focuses on technology that is able to read and analyze information from a spreadsheet. This is incredibly useful in the world of computing, as being able to automatically read, analyze, and create a report based on an entire database saves a lot of effort and can find trends in data that might not be apparent to human observers.
MasterMine believes it has a solid case and seeks an unspecified amount in damages. It has been providing this service since before Microsoft had such a division and holds key patents that protect its intellectual property.
Microsoft has not yet commented on the pending litigation, but has previously settled similar suits outside of court.
In a workplace environment, it is crucial to have an effective employment manual. This is one way for them to protect themselves from legal liability, and can greatly help in keeping employees informed about handling possible disputes and other internal affairs matters. With the right guidance from an effective office handbook, an employee may not require an employment lawyer to settle any disputes and issues which occurred in the workplace.
An employment manual is one of the most important communication tools which can be used between you and the employees of the company. One of the basic things employers must know about drafting the employment manual is being familiar with the federal, state, and local policies and laws. These are laws that everyone should submit to, and should they be revised, so does the employment manual as well. Because every state has different set of laws, knowing these laws and policies can help ease the drafting of the manual and its implementation.
Every employment manual should have a disclaimer informing the employees of future changes in the policies and rules in the company, and everyone should sign a receipt acknowledging they have received it and it’s their responsibility to be acquainted with it.
Some laws or policies every company should follow as stated by their federal, state, and local policies and laws are worker’s compensation benefits, medical and family leaves, and non-discrimination and equal employment policies. These are the most basic and vital regulations that every company should abide to.
Besides those required by law, company regulations and policies should include compensation for their workers (including taxes, insurance benefits and other deductions that the company would require, overtime pay and other financial matters), standards of conduct (dress codes, workplace violence and harassment, discrimination, etc), work schedules, safety and security, general employment information and many others.
Having a well-drafted employee manual has many benefits, mainly as a form of protection for both the company and the employees as well.
Owning a small business can be a very exciting and rewarding experience, but it can also be an overwhelming one without the right help and information. Getting the legally required and best benefits for your employees while also understanding how benefits work is extremely important for the prosperity and longevity of your business and the satisfaction of your workers.
As a small business, you are required to provide some basic benefits to your employees. This means you must:
- Provide workers’ compensation benefits in accordance with your state’s regulations. For most companies, whether or not you will be responsible for holding workers’ compensation insurance is dependent on the number of people in your company. If you do not off workers’ comp benefits and an employee is injured on the job, you may face penalties. Talk to a workers’ compensation lawyer to ensure you understand your state’s law and how it applies to your company.
- Give employees time off to vote, perform military service, and report for jury duty.
- Withhold FICA taxes from paychecks to provide retirement and disability benefits.
- Provide unemployment benefits.
There are also additional benefits that some companies provide but you are not required to. This includes retirement plans, health, dental, and vision insurance, life insurance, or paid vacation days.
If you choose to provide heath insurance by purchasing a plan for your employees, complications could occur if you make mistakes setting up these plans. If you are not complying with regulations or leaving employees off your plan you could be in trouble with the IRS or the U.S. Department of Labor. That is why it is important to seek professional help if you decide to purchase health, dental, vision, or other benefits for your employees to ensure you are not breaking any laws.
The Cost of Benefits
As a small business owner, it is important that you fully understand the financial cost of employee benefits. In many instances, benefits can be costly for business owners, especially small business owners. In fact, statistics report that small businesses pay 18 percent more than large firms for the same health insurance. Fortunately, there are low-cost and even no-cost options you can offer your employees.
To understand the cost of employee benefits consider a $50,000 salaried employee. According to the MIT Sloan School of Management, his or her benefits on average cost:
- $150 for life insurance
- $2,000 to $3,000 for single person health coverage, or $6,000 to $7,200 for family coverage
- $240-$650 for dental insurance
- $250 for disability insurance
As such, the employee with a $50,000 yearly salary can actually cost you as an employer $62,500 to $70,000. Fortunately, depending on the size of your company, you may be eligible for a number of tax credits.
For individuals with a medically-diagnosed disabling condition, finding means to support themselves on their own can be extraordinarily difficult. Many of these conditions simply make work impossible, and even in cases where the individual may be qualified for some types of work, other barriers, such as lack of available positions or educational barriers, can make it a similar challenge to find support. Fortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) provides disability benefits to qualified individuals to help provide a decent standard of living to those living with disabilities.
Every individual’s case is viewed holistically by the SSA office at which an application for disability benefits is received. So, for instance, if you live in Florida, you would apply to your closest local branch office, and they would process the application under their standards. However, there are some conditions that are typically severe enough that they almost automatically render one eligible for disability benefits. These include the following:
- Cystic fibrosis
- Chronic pulmonary insufficiency
- Ischemic heart disease
- Chronic heart failure
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Chronic liver disease
- Sickle cell disease
These and many other conditions can make it difficult or impossible for those who suffer from their effects to find gainful employment or to support themselves independently. For this reason, it is important that those who have a serious disability be able to receive the financial support to which they are entitled under the law, whether it be from the Social Security Disability Insurance program or the Supplemental Security Income program.
Chapter 11 bankruptcy is usually filed when a company runs into trouble and can no longer meet its obligations to their creditors. Under Chapter 11, the debtor business continues to run the business in order to implement a reorganization and payment plan as approved by the bankruptcy court.
Unless the company has no prospect of future revenues (i.e. there is no demand for the product or service), Chapter 11 is better than Chapter 7 because creditors can potentially be paid more if the company continues to operate and generate income. In most cases, future revenues have a higher yield than whatever the company can realize by simply liquidating its assets.
The main goal of the bankruptcy court is to assist the debtor business to pay off the debts as completely as possible. Under Chapter 11, the debtor business, which is now the debtor in possession, is still in charge of operations but must consult with the courts for any major business decision. Under Chapter 7, the funds generated from the liquidation of the assets are distributed to secured and unsecured creditors first, and any remaining amounts distributed among shareholders.
Under Chapter 11, since the business is still operational, shareholders retain some value in their stock and can choose to trade it over-the-counter (OTC) or keep it until the company is in better shape. In some cases, the reorganization was so successful that the stock value rose higher than it had ever been. Those who kept their stocks or bought low in the OTC market may actually be able to realize more profit than if the company had not filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
No company wants to be in a position of weakness, and filing for Chapter 11 may sound like total failure. However in many cases, going bankrupt may be the best thing that ever happened to a company. Talk with a bankruptcy lawyer to gain a better understanding of filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and what it entails.