Business Contract Lawyer
The buck stops with you, the business owner. Whatever your area of expertise, you are responsible for every aspect of the organization.
And while the survival and success of your company depends on many factors — knowing the market, delivering a quality product or service at a fair price, often a hefty dose of luck — it’s critical that you have a knowledgeable business contract lawyer on your side to eliminate uncertainty in dealing with customers, vendors, and employees and to protect yourself when disputes do arise.
Business law attorney Rebekah Lusk of Lusk Law, LLC is an experienced Frederick contract lawyer who is not only an expert in the law, but is a small business-owner herself. As a landlord and proprietor of horse boarding farm, she understands the challenges, setbacks, and potential pitfalls her clients face. She also understands and relates to the passion that drives them.
Whether you are just beginning your business journey or you are a seasoned business owner looking to run a tighter ship legally, call Frederick business contract lawyer Rebekah Lusk and her associates at Lusk Law, LLC at (443) 535-9715. We will be happy to discuss which types of contracts are relevant to your organization and help you draft them so that they are customized to your particular needs.
What a Business Contract Lawyer Will Do for You
As the owner of a business, you will need to work with all sorts of people and other companies: partners, employees, contractors, vendors, clients, and customers. In an ideal world, you would be able to seal a deal with a handshake and move forward with a shared vision and a healthy and productive relationship.
In the real world, you need to protect yourself by hiring a business contract lawyer to ensure that the terms for every relationship are in writing and are unambiguous and legally binding. The contract lawyers at Lusk Law, LLC will help you determine what contracts are needed and expertly draft them so you can focus on the day-to-day running of your company. Here are a few common types of business contracts:
- Employment contracts and offer letters
- Service contracts
- Sales contracts
- Confidentiality agreements
- Letters of intent.
Of course, this is far from a comprehensive list. You may need to borrow money to jump-start your business or sign a lease for office or retail space. The lending institution or landlord will likely have a standard contract in these cases, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be revised to be more advantageous to you. At Lusk Law, LLC, we are skilled negotiators who will review boilerplate agreements and fight to ensure every contract you sign represents your interests.
Hoping for the Best — But Anticipating the Worst
Good business planning includes thinking of nearly everything that could go wrong. How would your business respond if an extreme weather event forced you to close for a week? Would employees still be paid? Would you expect them to work remotely? What if a vendor fails to deliver your widgets on time, but says it’s due to the failure of one of their vendors? How do you determine who is ultimately responsible? These questions can help you anticipate and prepare for challenges and avoid the unnecessary conflict that can lead to lawsuits.
Breach of Contract
A contract is a legally binding agreement that should be beneficial to all parties involved. When one party fails to uphold their side of the agreement, that’s considered to be a breach of the contract.
Rebekah Lusk and her associates are always ready to effectively represent their clients in court, if necessary. But our goal is to save our clients the time and expense of a court case by providing them with strong, unambiguous, and comprehensive contracts. When terms are clear from the get-go, businesses are less likely to end up in litigation arising from a dispute. To learn more about how to protect yourself and your company, call (443) 535-9715.
Review of Existing Employment Contracts
Perhaps you have outdated and/or boilerplate employment contracts that you’ve been having your employees sign, but that you believe may come up short and leave you vulnerable. A contract lawyer has the knowledge and legal expertise to determine exactly what your contracts should cover, review your existing documents, and revise them so they are compliant with Maryland and federal law and tailored to the needs of your company.
Basics of Employment Contracts
Employment contracts can be useful for business owners in protecting their interests. But contracts can also cause problems if the wording is ambiguous or if they fail to include important information.
Whether you’re just preparing to hire your first employee or you’ve been using a standard employment contract for years, Lusk Law, LLC, can ensure that your contracts are legally sound. We focus on providing legal guidance to small-business owners. That includes drafting or revising documents that are necessary to the success of your business, including:
- Non-compete agreements
- Short-term/temporary worker contracts
- Contracts for full-time employees
- Contracts for senior-level staff.
Most employment relationships don’t last forever, so business owners must consider that employees will one day leave the company – either voluntarily or involuntarily. To avoid being sued for wrongful termination, companies must clearly explain in writing their processes for disciplinary action and termination. Contact Lusk Law, LLC today to schedule a consultation.
Employment contracts may also include information about:
- Job responsibilities
- Pay, including when employees are paid
- Time off, including procedures for requesting time off
- Bonuses or commission
- Stock options and profit sharing
- Travel expenses or mileage
- Rules regarding use of company equipment
- Explanation of “at will” employment, meaning the employee can leave voluntarily or be terminated at any time.
Contracts will vary, depending on the nature of the business. For example, in healthcare professions, businesses will need to include language about patient privacy and the confidentiality of records. Some businesses may also want a non-disclosure agreement to protect proprietary information.
Businesses may want more than one type of contract. Some companies have separate agreements employees must sign, acknowledging policies on harassment, discrimination, and workplace violence.
Protect Your Business with a Non-Compete Agreement
You’ve put money, sweat, and untold hours into starting and growing your business. Competition may be tough. The last thing you want is an employee walking away to start a rival company, possibly taking your customers with him, or an existing organization luring away one of your workers along with your trade secrets.
One clause in an employment contract that can eliminate these scenarios — and one that small business owners often overlook — is the non-compete agreement.
A non-compete agreement is a clause that states that an employee may not enter into competition with an employer for a certain period of time. At Lusk Law, LLC, our job is to represent the interests of our clients. When drafting a non-compete clause or reviewing an existing one, we are mindful of protecting the business, remaining compliant with Maryland law, and making sure the demands on the employees are reasonable. Ambiguously worded or overly restrictive non-compete clauses risk being disputed and declared invalid in court.
Avoid Misclassification With Help From a Frederick Contract Lawyer
There are two types of workers: employees and independent contractors. Sometimes, business owners make the mistake of assuming someone they’re paying is an independent contractor when, in fact, that person is technically an employee.
Here are some of the differences between employees and contractors:
- Contractors set their own hours and use their own equipment; a worker who is expected to work certain hours and who uses company equipment would be considered an employee.
- Employees do work that is essential to the company – for example, manage day-to-day operations of a restaurant.
- Contractors pay all of their own taxes and do not receive employer-paid benefits.
The ABC Test
Maryland has adopted what is commonly called the ABC Test to help determine whether a worker is an employee or a contractor. For purposes of the Workplace Fraud Act and the state’s Unemployment Insurance law, a worker is considered to be an employee unless:
- “The individual is free from direction and control;
- The individual is customarily engaged in an independent business of the same nature as that involved in the work; and
- The work is outside the usual course of business of the person for whom it is performed OR the work is performed outside any place of business of the person for whom it is performed.”
When hiring temporary workers, it’s important to understand the differences between contractors and employees. The Internal Revenue Service and Maryland’s Division of Labor and Industry have stepped up enforcement in recent years regarding misclassification of employees. Maryland is especially concerned with the construction and landscaping industries, although it’s illegal to misclassify any employee in any industry. This is the case whether the misclassification occurred intentionally or by mistake.
The attorneys at Lusk Law, LLC can guide business owners through the intricacies of the Workplace Fraud Act and make sure every worker is classified correctly — thus avoiding confusion and costly penalties. Call us at (443) 535-9715.
What to Know When Hiring Contractors
Maybe you need short-term help but are not sure what your needs will be in the future; the service or product you provide is seasonal so you need more employees only during certain times of the year; or you need specialized help with a project, like a website. Hiring contractors gives businesses the ability to more easily scale their employee numbers up and down as needed. Keep in mind that contractors are not employees, and they work with far more autonomy. The Social Security Administration’s Common Law Control Test explains a few of the differences:
- In general, an independent contractor’s work is project-based. Businesses can require employees to work certain days or hours at a specified location. Contractors set their own schedules and work as many or as few hours as it takes to complete the task.
- Employees use their employer’s tools and equipment. Contractors tend to use their own.
- Employees may be required to undergo extensive or mandatory formal training. This should not be the case with independent contractors.
- Employees generally receive a steady paycheck — a consistent amount paid at regular intervals. Contractors are generally paid by the job.
- Many employers like to run background checks on potential workers. This is allowed for employees, but laws vary when it comes to contractors.
Contact Lusk Law, LLC to learn more about your responsibilities when hiring independent contractors — and for help drafting contracts that are comprehensive and compliant with state and federal law.
Call Frederick Business Contract Lawyer Rebekah Lusk
Rebekah Lusk and her associates at Lusk Law, LLC, excel at advising businesses, because we are business owners ourselves. In running a law firm, an investment and rental property company, and a horse boarding facility, we’ve learned a lot about anticipating and preparing for many eventualities. An ironclad contract ensures that every party — employers, employees, contractors, vendors, clients — understands their role and responsibilities, minimizing the likelihood of misunderstanding. It’s just good business. And it is critical for protecting your company and your livelihood.
Contact Lusk Law, LLC via our online form, or at (443) 535-9715, if you’d like to discuss how we can help draft your business contracts from scratch and review existing ones.
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