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Wisconsin Small Business Law

As a Wisconsin small business owner, you and your company are responsible for complying with federal, state and local laws. If you’re new to owning a small business, this can be especially intimidating as a small mistake could cost your business its ability to stay afloat in the market.

For business owners in Green Bay, Milwaukee or Madison, it’s important to understand state and federal laws and know how to proceed when a legal issue develops. LawInfo has the Wisconsin small business law information you need from business plans to workers’ compensation.

Wisconsin Business Insurance

Insurance is both a necessity and, for certain types of liabilities, a legal requirement for small businesses in Wisconsin. Small businesses are especially vulnerable to liability. Damages to business property, injuries to workers, mistakes in contracts and general liability to customer or third-party claims can financially impact a small business to the point of bankruptcy.

Wisconsin law requires every business to purchase workers’ compensation insurance—for protection against workplace injury claims—and auto insurance, if your business uses a vehicle. Other types of insurance policies you may want for your business include:

  • A business property rider for your home insurance policy to protect against business property damages in home businesses.
  • A health insurance group plan as a benefit for employees.
  • Professional liability insurance to cover errors and omissions that may create negligence or malpractice claims.
  • Product liability insurance to protect against warranty and injury claims from faulty or misused products.

A general liability insurance policy or a business owner’s policy may benefit your business if you need to economically cover a range of different liabilities.

Common Employment Law Issues in Wisconsin

Small businesses in the U.S. are expected to comply with a dizzying number of laws and regulations. Added to these strains is an ever-evolving field of civil rights law which is simultaneously defining new worker and customer protections while cracking down on noncompliant businesses.

U.S. employees have more workplace rights than other employees in many countries. Therefore, as a business owner, you should be wary of the common employment law mistakes some Wisconsin employers make, including:

  • Retaliating against employees who comply with the Wisconsin Whistleblower Law.
  • Cutting hours or pay for employee-inflicted damages to company property or products.
  • Withholding tips from tipped employees.
  • Refusing to pay out unused vacation time if company policy doesn’t allow for vacation rollovers. (i.e. Enforcing a “use it or lose it” vacation policy.)
  • Firing a female employee for taking time off during or after childbirth.

First Steps to Starting a Small Business in Wisconsin

Taking your small business from idea to market isn’t a formulaic process. How one small business started isn’t necessarily the same way yours will start. However, there are a few important steps you’ll want to take first when starting a new small business, such as:

  1. Make a business plan.
  2. Choose a legal structure for your business.
  3. Choose and register your business name.
  4. Find a location that suits your business’s needs and get information on the required safety and zoning codes.
  5. Seek financing if you’re unable to self-finance your business.
  6. Register for federal, state and local taxes, licenses and permits.
  7. Register your new and original business products, services or inventions as intellectual property using trademarks, servicemarks, copyrights or patents.
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