Business Law: Essentials for a Canadian Start-Up
The business environment can be challenging when considering the legislations that one ought to be familiar with and to align operations. The Canadian Business Law is clear on aspects such as contracts, tort liabilities, and the treatment of employees. When starting a business in the province of Halifax, it will be required that you are well informed about the various subjects as I have henceforth outlined. Business conduct can only be successful if the business owner focuses on dealing with customers and employees in a way that raises the business profits without subjecting to liabilities under law. As such, besides the explicitly described practices concerning business law, it will be crucial to ensure that no lawsuits are attracted from any of the stakeholders of the business. The surrounding communities also have certain rights and expectations of the business; hence the owner has to address their needs too.
Dealing with Disputes
The workplace is characterized by a divergence of character traits. Similarly, beliefs and attitudes also differ from person to person. Because of these differences, internal conflicts are inevitable in any business. This calls for the business owner to plan effectively on how to address conflicts when they arise. Various methods have been proposed for dispute resolution in businesses. Businesses should always strive to develop internal dispute resolution processes that are less formal and rigorous than the court processes. Such methods may also be time-saving on the part of the business. An internal dispute resolution strategy is crucial at the beginning of the business. This may result in the formulation of a discipline committee, which addresses all the disputes in the organization.
The first step involved in the structuring of the dispute resolution process is to understand the needs of employees in the business and the position of the business concerning resource availability. This can help develop processes that are neither time nor resource consuming to the business. The Canadian Human Rights Commission (2013) suggests that the process should be inclusive from the beginning and keep the employees informed about the dispute resolution strategy. Through this way that they can understand actions that warrant warnings. They have to understand their mandate in the business and be aware of the mistakes or violations of the business code of conduct that would draw specific reactions from the management. For instance, all employees must be aware of the mistakes that would warrant warnings or hearings. The warnings could be issued directly by the administrator while hearings have to be conducted before a committee, especially those selected to deal with disputes in the organization (Canadian Human Rights Commission, 2013).
When disciplinary committees are created, it is recommended that the members of the disciplinary committees are trained on how to address different disputes in the business. Moreover, they must also be trained in human rights principles and the international human rights charter in general. The committee may comprise of “members of staff or managers, a lawyer or judge, and an impartial third party” (Canadian Human Rights Commission, 2013). In this way, the committee will be able to handle general disputes and those relating to human rights issues. The committee has to be impartial and independent from any department of the business. The processes used must also encourage participation of all organizational members and be acceptable to all the employees and managers in the business (Canadian Human Rights Commission, 2013).
Workplace Incidences. Despite the presence of a dispute resolution process, workplace incidences may still occur in the business. It will be necessary to understand how to deal with different issues pertaining to them. According to Willes and Willes (2012), it is possible for the workplace or even other incidences in relation to employee negligence to occur. Such occurrences in a business environment may draw negative reactions from employees or even cause harm to the business. Willes and Willes (2012) refer to these kinds of occurrences as unintentional torts in the business environment. Incidences such as work-related injury and violation of professional work standards all pose a significant risk to the business. To act upon such incidences, it is recommended to consider the conventional procedures for addressing tort violations. In some cases, the employer may be held responsible for harm caused by an employee under the statutes of the fiduciary duty of care. Examining the proof of such liabilities follows the conventional procedure of confirming that there is indeed a duty of care held by the perpetrator. Confirmation of a duty of care is accomplished through consideration of physical and functional proximity to the source of harm.
In the case of a business, professional responsibility or business ownership can be translated into a duty of care. The employer is not only responsible for hiring qualified personnel but also of assigning them to roles that correspond to their qualifications. Once there is proof of the existence of the duty of care, the next step would be to prove that the duty of care has been breached resulting in the harm that is directly a result of the breach of that duty (Willes & Willes, 2012).
While unintentional incidences may arise from time to time, it is also possible for intentional torts to be committed by or against the business. Torts such as fraud, trademark infringement, and malicious actions by competitors could occur in an organization. As the employer, it is mandatory that you are aware of such torts and the requisite actions against them. Assault and battery of an employee by another employee could also subject the employer to vicarious liability hence there should be ways of seeking redress when such an incidence occurs. The burden of proving lack of liability in such instances lies with the employer through providing proof that the actions of an employee are independent and not related to their job roles. The plaintiff in an assault case has to prove that there was indeed an assault and that the assault resulted in harm. At the same time, the defendant has to prove that the assault was in self-defense and did not result in harm. This was clearly explained in the case of McDonald v. Hees (1974) as described by Willes and Willes (2012). Other intentional torts include defamation, slander of business goods, breach of business confidence, and the slander of title or goods ownership. The employer must know how to address such torts efficiently.
Unfair business practices are also labeled as intentional torts at times. Such are practices meant to take advantage of inexperienced and ignorant customers. Other businesses may also use such practices to take advantage of customers, subjecting the unaware competitors to unfair terms (Willes & Willes, 2012). Such practices like making onerous terms for the buyer are punishable by law. The consumer- protection act is designed to protect consumers from occurrences such as these. Once in business, you should make an effort to understand the goods being sold so as to avoid making such mistakes unintentionally and also to identify whether competitors are using them. Unfair practices can increase business pressure as well as consumer pressure.
In a case of intentional or unintentional tort liability of the business, there may at times a need for compensation. Compensation must, however, be of a value equal to or less than the maximum for harm under the Canadian Law. The degree of harm caused has to be examined and the corresponding costs evaluated to determine the deserved compensation. Besides the compensation for harm, however, the employer has to cater for employee compensation through payment of minimum wage, compensation of employees for vacation periods, allowances, overtime durations and holidays such as the Remembrance Day (Department of Labor and Advanced Education, 2016). The compensation notwithstanding, incidences in the workplace could result in lawsuits. It is the prerogative of the business employer to make efforts towards avoiding lawsuits. Some of the measures you could take to achieve this include complying with business and professional codes of conduct, setting up committees to handle disputes before they escalate into lawsuits, insuring the business to cater for unforeseen events such as work-related injuries among the employees, and clearly laying down an organizational credo to direct the employee workplace behaviors. These practices could fine-tune employee character to be aligned with organizational expectations.
Contracts. Another area of law that is pertinent to the business environment is that of contracts. Intentions to create functional legal relations are inevitable in a progressive business. Any form of contract must be written and signed either physically or electronically. The elements of a valid contract must be known by the business owner to avoid making contractual mistakes. These elements include an offer, acceptance of the offer, consideration for the offer, and the capacity of both parties to act in the contractual terms (Willes & Willes, 2012). In some cases, an offer may be made, and the recipient gives a counteroffer. This nullifies the initial offer when accepted and provides the new terms of the contract. Contracts are only considered enforceable in the court if created legally. Comprehension of the process and concepts entailed in contracts can make a great difference between a business boost and an instantaneous failure. While contracting, there is a crucial need to consider all the conditions of the offer or contract terms in detail since misrepresentation through small aspects such as punctuation can distort the meaning of contract terms. Understanding the procedures and conditions for contract termination also comes in handy while creating contractual relations. In electronic contracts, the offer has to be made through a mode that the recipient uses and through which one can receive the offer and similarly give an acceptance. The other conditions remain the same, nonetheless. Issues such as mistakes, fraudulent misrepresentation, innocent misrepresentation, and promises can also arise in contracts, making the void or voidable. The partners have to consider these and agree on ways of redressing such issues. For instance, in the case of Corgi, a trained dog-seller and a buyer, Reynolds cited in Willes and Willes (2012), the plaintiff cannot blame the dog breeder of any of these issues since the information provided by the breeder was accurate. The buyer desired a dog that was a prize-winning breed. The seller gave him one after confirming that the dog had actually won the first prize in a recent confirmation. The information provided was accurate as proven by the subsequent prize won by the dog later and was accepted at the time of contract. This means the plaintiff has no case against the potential defendant. The issues also arose after the sale and contract completion.
In another case concerning a promise, the Governors of Dalhousie College filed a suit against Boutilier for making a promise, which he failed to fulfill. The court ruled that against the plaintiff with claims that the solicited funds were more than the amount required for accomplishing the task for which they were requested. This can confirm with the employer to avoid relying on promises where actual contractual agreements would be needed. Furthermore, Willes and Willes (2012) purport that promises made by the family members are not enforceable. It is thus essential to consider this prior to accepting promises where there is an actual need for a contract.
Employment Law Issues. The Canadian Employment Law offers clarification regarding the responsibilities and duties of the employers and employees in businesses respectively. As an employer, you have the duties of compensating the employees satisfactorily through aligning business pay structures with the minimum-wage requirements. Apart from this, the employer also hires and trains employees for business performance, gives the business code of conduct and business goals and objectives, provides a supportive work environment for the employees, and makes important decisions in the business and gives notice to the employees in case of impending termination (Department of Labor and Advanced Education, 2016). The employer has to address the employee needs at all times to ensure they are sufficiently motivated for their tasks. The employee has also the duty of delivering within the role descriptions associated with their positions, collaborating with the employer towards the achievement of organizational goals, and maintaining professional and business code of conduct.
Canadian Human Rights Commission (2013). How to develop an internal dispute resolution process. Retrieved from http://www.chrc-ccdp.gc.ca/eng/content/how-develop-internal-dispute-resolution-process
Department of Labor and Advanced Education (2016). Guide to Nova Scotia labor standards Code. Retrieved from https://novascotia.ca/lae/employmentrights/docs/LabourStandardsCodeGuide.pdf
Willes, J.A. and Willes, J.H. (2012). Contemporary Canadian business law: Principles and cases (10thed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Publications.