No one can have a monopoly on an idea, but good businesses are the ones who able to translate those ideas in to effective services and products. A tricky piece of the puzzle is figuring out how to protect the various things that allow for an idea to become a business enterprise, such as brands, pricing structures, delivery mechanisms, vendors relationships, and client lists.

An employee leaves a business and starts his or her own business. The new business provides similar services in the same market to the same clients. What recourse does the owner of the original business have? What protections does the new business have? These questions underlay a recent lawsuit between two competing Massachusetts dumpling restaurants over trade secrets and intellectual property. The dispute illustrates the fact that even small business need to have a plan for preserving intellectual property and trade secrets, and ensuring that employees do not disclose strategies and secrets to competitors. Likewise, newly created businesses need to figure out how to protect themselves from claims that they're relying on stolen intellectual property or have violated non-disclosure and non-compete agreements. 

At a minimum, businesses should have a baseline knowledge of what intellectual property and trade secrets they have and what can be legally protected. Similarly, entrepreneurs should review carefully what their prior and current obligations to former employers are. Advance planning is everything because, as the case of Dumpling v. Dumpling, shows, once the genie is out of the bottle, it's out.

In July of 2015, a new low-cost legal services agency dedicated to assisting transgender individuals in New England went live: Transformative Justice Legal Service (TJLS). This law practice, along with  is proud to be a chief supporter of TJLS. Updates and a link to TJLS new survey of the legal needs for transgender individuals can be found on its Facebook page

More broadly, the national and regional picture for transgender equality and employment protections is changing. The EEOC recently solidified its long-developing position on anti-discrimination protections by formally announcing that it considers discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity to be forms of sex discrimination. This should come as a welcome clarification to all workers and employers.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, starting on July 1, 2015, employees of businesses with eleven or more employees are eligible to start earning paid sick leave. Businesses with fewer than eleven employees may earn unpaid sick leave. For more information, the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office has provided a useful website.

The Massachusetts Attorney General is presently in the process of promulgating regulations for the law's implementation. The proposed regulations are available here in PDF form.

As a practical business matter, employers continue to be a central focus for public policies and private sector initiatives intended to improve the health of individuals and communities. Employers may well want to carefully consider what actually works for keeping employees healthy. Currently, what doesn't appear to work very well, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's research, are many of the "wellness programs" that have become popular among corporate employers over the last decade. 

The reality might well be that the workplace is not the ideal setting for health-care related social policies, especially when driven by trends and hype. The bottom line for both money and health, might be that businesses may want to consider adopting a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to figuring out how to contain health care costs and how to empower workers to take better care of themselves.
Starting on July 1, 2015, Massachusetts employers with 11 or more employees must begin providing paid sick leave. Click here for a summary of the new law's key features.

Both employers and employees should review their rights and responsibilities under the new law carefully. Notably, good record-keeping of hours worked and accrued leave will be essential. 

Employers should also be aware that employees still retain their FMLA rights under federal law. Furthermore, when documenting the use of sick leave employers should bear in mind the need to comply with both HIPAA and Massachusetts data security and personal information privacy standards, when dealing with employee medical information.