The Small Business of Holiday Pay

With the holidays right around the corner, you may be wondering if your small business is legally required to provide holiday pay for your employees on federally recognized holidays. Most businesses will close for at least some of the federally recognized holidays, and many companies will provide their employees with pay on some of the holidays, but many employers are unsure if they are required to pay their employees on those days.

There is no law stating that businesses have to pay their employees extra for working on a holiday, or for a holiday where the business is closed, nor is there a law requiring an employer to give employees time off on a holiday unless it is for religious reasons. The only exception to this is if someone is a federal employee, in which case they will get paid holidays off. However, many employers will give their employees extra pay as an incentive to keep them happy during the holidays.

Federal Holidays

If you decide to give your employees holiday pay, the most common paid holidays are:

  •         New Year’s Day
  •         Easter
  •         Memorial Day
  •         Independence Day
  •         Labor Day
  •         Thanksgiving Day
  •         The Friday after Thanksgiving
  •         Christmas Day

Some companies will also choose to give their employees holiday pay for these other federal holidays:

  •         New Year’s Eve
  •         President’s Day
  •         Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday
  •         Veterans’ Day
  •         Christmas Eve

Holiday Pay with Conditions

Sometimes an employer will choose to give holiday pay with certain conditions for employees to receive it. A common condition is for an employee to have to work the day before and the day after the holiday in order to receive the extra pay, unless they are already on approved leave time. Some employers will require an employee work there for a certain length of time before providing holiday pay.

No matter what conditions you choose to attach to the holiday pay, make sure the policy is clearly spelled out in writing. You are not required to give the same holiday pay to all employees, so long as the reasons are not discriminatory.

Overtime

It is possible for an employee to earn both holiday pay and overtime in the same week, but only if they spend over 40 hours actually working. If they only work 38 hours during the week, then get eight hours of holiday pay, this technically would not fall under overtime. Of course, you can choose to count it as overtime if you want to, but the overlap is not required.

Conclusion

Even though you are not legally required to provide holiday pay to your employees, it is a good incentive that many businesses will offer as a courtesy to their employees. Usually, it is given as time and a half, which means if they were making $10 per hour normally, they would instead be getting paid $15 per hour during holiday pay. Giving your employees holiday pay will make them happy and help you retain them, which is important for a small business competing against larger corporations. 

Types of Liability Insurance for Your Small Business

There are many liability risks that small businesses are exposed to that they need protection against, which is where liability insurance comes in. However, there are many different types of liability insurance available, and you may not need all of them. These are some of the different types of liability insurance and when your small business might need them.

General Liability Insurance

This insurance covers claims of injury and property damage. If there is a slip and fall accident in your business and the customer makes a claim against you to help cover their medical costs, this insurance will help cover the costs of the claim.

General liability will also cover if someone else’s property is damaged by your business. This also covers if someone rants about your client online and the client ends up suing you for libel, this insurance will also cover that.

Commercial Liability Insurance

This is insurance covers three different types of incidents in your business. It offers property insurance, which will cover damage to your business’ location and equipment. It covers workers’ compensation, for if your employees are injured at work. Commercial liability also covers public liability insurance, which has some overlap with general liability, helping cover medical expenses if someone is injured on your premises.

Commercial Property Insurance

This is important for your business whether you rent or own the building where your business is located. If you own the building, you need this to insure the property for its costs of replacement. Whether or not you own the building, you need to insure everything in the property. This covers everything inside, including your phones, computers, and chairs.

This insurance also covers things like vandalism and theft.

Commercial Auto Insurance

If your business owns vehicles or relies on the vehicles of others for work-related purposes, you may be legally required to have this insurance. This is similar to your personal car insurance, just on a bigger scale. If your employees are using their personal cars for work-related matters, it can cover their cars when they are using them for business-related matters. So, for example, if your employee gets in a car wreck while on the clock, this will help cover it, but if they are driving home at the end of the day, off the clock, and they get into a wreck, your insurance is not obliged to cover them.

Employee Practices Liability Insurance

This insurance will cover employee-related incidents, like if your small business is sued for unfair employment practices, sexual harassment, hostile workplace claims, or discrimination.

Professional Liability Insurance

This is good for if there is a claim that your business had errors or omissions in the products and services you provide. Like if a hair salon accidentally turns your hair green when it was supposed to be dyed black; this insurance would cover costs to settle a claim like this.

It also can cover the costs of clerical errors. For example, if a patient in a doctor’s office was scheduled for the wrong type of appointment, and the service was performed anyway, this insurance would help cover the costs of any claims about that.

Employer Liability Insurance

This is another facet of workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation will cover your employee’s medical expenses if they are hurt on the job, and it can cover lost wages. Sometimes, an employee feels like workers’ compensation is not enough and they may sue you for more damages than are covered by workers’ compensation. This is where employer liability insurance comes into play.

Cyber Liability Insurance

This is still a fairly new type of liability insurance, but it is an important one in the digital age. If there is a digital threat to your business, this insurance can help cover the problems that arise. Your policy can cover hackers, extortion, and data breaches.

Since so many companies store important information about their customers in their computer systems, there is a lot of data that can be jeopardized if someone successfully hacks into your company’s computers.

Halloween Costume Copyright Laws

 

Holidays are no stranger to copyright laws, and Halloween is no exception. Costumes are by far the biggest issue that people face when it comes to intellectual property laws. People want to dress up as their favorite characters, but the studios who produced the movies or shows have them copyrighted.

In the 1980s, when litigation for pirating costumes began, the courts used the useful article doctrine in the Copyright Act as their guide for how to handle these cases. The Copyright Act defines useful articles as an item with “an intrinsic utilitarian function that is not merely to portray the appearance of the article or to convey information.”

Useful articles are not protected under copyright laws, which means you cannot copyright the shape of a phone or car; it also means you cannot copyright the shape of clothing, including costumes.

In 1991, when the Copyright Office issued a Policy Decision on the Registrability of Costume Designs, that said costumes will be treated as useful articles, and are not under copyright protection because they “serve a dual purpose of clothing the body and portraying their appearance.”

Masks Make Things Complicated

Masks, however, are not considered to be useful articles. A 1990 case that was brought to the Third Circuit said that masks were intended “merely to portray the appearance” of something, so they were no considered useful articles. The Copyright Office agreed with this decision and said that “since masks generally portray their own appearance, this subject matter appears to fall outside the definition of ‘useful article.'”

However, masks have to be original enough to get copyright protection. In Don Post Studios v. Cinema Secrets, the makers of the “Halloween” movies were sued by the person who created the mask Michael Myers wears. The mask maker said this was his creation and should be protected under copyright laws, but the court ruled against him because the mask was made with a mold for a William Shatner mask, so it was not original enough to be protected under copyright laws.

Litigation Over Costumes

While the entire costume is not subject to copyright laws, the individual parts of the costume can be protected, if they are separable from the utilitarian aspects of the costume. In one case, the maker of children’s animal costumes with plush sculpted hoods and sleeves that were shaped like paws sued their competitor for using the design. The Second Circuit ruled that the head and paws are conceptually separable from the rest of the costume, allowing them copyright protection.

A 1989 case ruled that a children’s costume that was in the shape of a pumpkin was a useful article since it is clothing.

In the late 90s, the creator of “Barney and Friends” threatened to sue over 700 costume shops for selling costumes that resembled the characters on the show. One shop had to pay $100,000 for renting a purple dinosaur costume that resembled Barney.

When selling costumes that resemble celebrities, the right of publicity may come into question. However, parody laws may be applicable to this situation. The copyright owner for images of Albert Einstein threatened to sue a company selling Einstein disguise kits.

Fictional Characters Complicate Copyright Protections

To further complicate Halloween’s relationship with copyright laws, fictional characters that are in an original work of authorship, like a book or movie, are not presumed to be protected by copyright laws, they may be protected independently from their original work if they are unique and distinctive enough.

Your favorite movie character, whether it is Michael Myers or Cinderella, may still be considered protected under the Copyright Act. However, there are horror characters who are in the public domain that you can dress up as and avoid copyright infringement. Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Ichabod Crane, and the Wicked Witch of the West are all in the public domain, so you can use them without risking violating copyright laws.

Halloween can be a confusing time for copyright protections, especially since by buying a costume of a character who is protected by copyright law implies the license to wear the costume. Unless you are holding a big, public event, the average person may not need to worry about whether their costume is protected by copyright laws. Have fun and enjoy your costume, no matter what it may be.