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Houston Business & Commercial Law Blog

Types of commercial real estate leases

When looking for a location, a business owner in Texas may see a variety of commercial real estate leases for different properties. The differences between these have the potential to cause extreme financial hardship or to benefit the company in the long-term. Choosing the type that will best suit the business is typically not a decision that should be made before reviewing the properties available.

According to TheBalance.com, a retail business may be offered a commercial real estate lease known as a percentage lease, which includes an additional payment that is figured using the company’s sales for the month, as well as the set monthly rent payment. This has the potential to raise the amount paid significantly, depending on the type of business.

Protecting your company from embezzlement

The assets of your company in Houston, Texas, depend on internal as well as external factors if you have employees who participate in accounting, investments, allocation of funds or other financial duties. It may be necessary for you to place a high level of trust in those who work for you. However, at The Jackson Law Firm, we often assist business owners who want to prevent the potential for employee theft by providing tactics for inhibiting embezzlement in a company.

The Houston Chronicle points out that the results of embezzlement may cause permanent damage to the morale of your company, and could even destroy your business, depending on the location, amount and intended use of the funds stolen. But, you may be able to take proactive steps to obstruct the misuse of company funds through careful drafting of your policies and procedures.

Can performance evaluations reduce employer liability?

There are many federal and state laws that govern employment in Houston, and ensuring that your company is in compliance requires attention to detail. One tactic that may be useful in avoiding employment litigation is the use of performance evaluations. However, according to the Houston Chronicle, these must meet certain criteria to be effective in preventing lawsuits and improving productivity in the workplace.

It is important to inform your employees of what will be expected of them before implementing an evaluation program, and a process for appealing a negative review should be established from the beginning. Each assessment should be tailored to the job, but with a performance rating scale that is common to all employee titles so that, for example, a clerk and a supervisor may both receive “exceptional” ratings. Education should be provided for those who will be conducting evaluations.

Employee contracts and the SEC

When drafting confidentiality agreements and other documents for an employee contract, employers must be careful to ensure that the language is legally sound and does not violate federal or state law. The Securities and Exchange Commission warns that this must include avoiding any clauses or phrases that would cause employees to decide not to report potential violations to the SEC out of concern over possible retaliatory actions.

The confidentiality agreement may not be the only section of an employee contract that may have such a prohibitive effect. Employers are encouraged to review all employee agreements, including those in severance clauses, employment offers and others, and eliminate any words or phrases that could be taken as a warning that actions may be taken against whistleblowers.

When breach of contract leads to financial loss

After signing a contract for services with any type of company, a person in Houston should be able to count on that business to fulfill the terms of the contract. Failure to do so results in a breach of contract, and the person who is wronged may be able to file litigation and win if he or she can prove that the contract and the damages are valid, and that there was a failure to perform the services as promised.

A couple in Houston have filed a lawsuit to cover the costs of damages to their home sustained by inclement weather, as well as expenses related to the case. They claim that those responsible for inspecting, adjusting and paying insurance claims did not fulfill their duty as defined by the contract, which led to further destruction of the residence.

Personal property, past-due rent and liens

A commercial real estate owner in Houston who leases the property to a local company may find that being a landlord is a profitable business in itself. However, the stream of income depends on the integrity of the renter. Therefore, when he or she fails to meet the obligations of the lease, the situation has the potential to create a financial hardship for the property owner, particularly when there is still a balance owed on a mortgage for the property. Landlords in Texas do have legal recourse, but if the situation is not handled correctly, it may create circumstances that allow the tenant to file a lawsuit and win.

The Houston Chronicle notes that a commercial landlord must provide formal notification to the tenant before beginning the eviction process in the court system. In some states, the landlord may remove personal property left in the building after the property is abandoned, but this must be returned to its owner whenever he or she comes to claim it. In Texas, though, the lessee’s personal property may be confiscated and kept until the debt is paid because the state allows liens to be included in the lease agreement.

Logo infringement and unfair competition

The benefits of the capitalist system in the United States extend to both small and large companies in Texas and elsewhere in the country. And, there are federal regulations in place that level the playing field and prevent unscrupulous business owners from stealing customers through trademark infringement. Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute explains the law addressing this element of unfair competition.

The Federal Trade Commission regulates the arena of trademark infringement, which often affects customers as well as the company that suffers the loss. By copying another’s registered mark, a business owner may benefit from the popularity of that brand and steal trade from the owner while offering consumers a product that may be lesser quality. Trademark infringement falls under tort law, so companies that commit this crime may be sued in civil court.

Controlling your company’s social media reputation

Business owners in Houston are often aware of the potential impact that their online presence can have. Reaching customers through social media may be an effective way to promote sales and specials and reach a wider audience. However, the connections that are created have the ability to harm a business’s bottom line, too, even when posted information does not come from the company’s official website or social media account.

A recent post on Yelp.com pointed out that the personal or political views of a business owner may affect people’s willingness to visit a store or restaurant because many see their purchases as votes of support or approval. This message was accompanied by others on the popular restaurant review site declaring that regardless of the quality of the product offered by a Florida ice cream shop, they would not be visiting the local eatery again.

What are some examples of illegal sexual harassment?

If you run a business or are responsible for managing employees, you likely have a number of concerns and stressful matters to deal with. However, it is vital to understand what constitutes unlawful sexual harassment and identity the appropriate course of action if you notice this illegal activity or an employee claims that they experienced sexual harassment. In Houston, and across the entire state of Texas, allegations of sexual harassment can be very damaging for businesses both large and small.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, illegal sexual harassment takes many forms. For example, some types of sexually-charged physical or verbal conduct which lead to a working environment that is hostile, impact a worker's employment or impede an employee's ability to perform the functions of their job are illegal. Other examples of illegal harassment which are sexual in nature include unwanted sexual advances and the requesting of sexual favors. Furthermore, sexual harassment does not need to result in the termination of a victim's job or cause them to suffer economic harm in order for it to be against the law.

Enforcing employee dress codes

In many companies in Houston, employers may believe that it is important to “look professional” while conducting business. However, that phrase has different meanings to different people, so it has the potential to be a factor in employee dissatisfaction and even litigation if an issue arises. According to the Houston Chronicle, employers are able to set limits on the way that workers dress, but there are exceptions that federal employment law has acknowledged, and which must be honored.

Employees are protected from discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity and disability, and before developing a policy that defines the dress code, employers should explore the ways that any given rule may affect people in these classes. Cultural apparel and religious head coverings or facial hair are examples that may become problematic if an employer does not have a legitimate reason to prohibit them. For example, loose clothing may be a safety issue around certain equipment, so an employer may be able to enforce these aspects of a dress code without making accommodations, as long as they are applied equally to all employees.

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