Points of Business Interest - March 2002

Points of Business Interest

New standards are set for home inspectors

I know this is a business newsletter, but most business people are also homeowners, so I thought I should add this. The Home Inspectors License Act becomes effective January 1, 2003, and requires inspectors of residential real estate to have a high school diploma or equivalent, be at least 21 years old, complete a course of study established by rule and pass an examination. There is also a continuing education requirement. When buying a home, it is important to know what you are getting; check the credentials of the home inspector you are using.

U.S. Supreme Court kicks a crutch out from under the Americans with Disabilities Act

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that an employee's carpel tunnel syndrome, acquired on the job, which makes it difficult for her to do her job but does not effect her ability to care for herself off the job, does not render her disabled within the meaning of the American with Disabilities Act. The court held that the requirement in the ADA is that the injury affect major life activities, which means that the central inquiry must be whether the person is unable to perform the variety of tasks central to most people's lives, such as household chores, bathing and brushing one's teeth. Since she could do these things, she could not recover under the Act.

Post your Notices

The Family and Medical Leave act of 1993 (FMLA) requires employers to post a FMLA notice and advise the employee regarding eligibility. In a recent case handed down by the Circuit Court of Appeals, the employer's failure to post the FMLA notice and inform the employee that she was ineligible for paid leave under the FMLA constituted a material misrepresentation so that the employer was barred from raising the defense of the employee's ineligibility, even though the employer intended no deception. A lesson to be learned is that there are a number of notices that employers are required to post, such as minimum wage and FMLA. It is essential that these notices be posted in an area where the employees are certain to see them.

The web shrinks

I do not know if it is the economy or September 11, but according with an Internet survey, the number of existing websites declined by 182,142 between November and December 2001. Despite this, there is more spam being sent out by e-mail.

Computer security: Is the Internet everyone's Big Brother?

With more businesses using e-mail and the Internet, it is essential to be concerned with your firm's computer security. Some suggestions are to delete the "cookies" often, which are small files inserted into your hard drive when you visit a website. Cookies may contain profiling information and personal preferences on your business. They should be deleted regularly, or you can set your browser to block all cookies or ask you first. Another option is to purchase a cookie management program, like Cookie Crasher from TheLimitsOff.com. Some advertisers reportedly allow you to opt out of their identification-tracking cookie. This usually results in replacing a unique cookie with a generic one. You should also make sure you have firewalls to keep people from attacking your system. Hardware firewalls are designed to keep intruders from coming in, but they do not always stop your programs from sending data back out. Software firewalls can help with this.

One of the most important things you can do is to purchase and regularly update your anti-virus program. We update ours weekly to make that sure that we are protected. The data on your hard drive and/or server can represent the operational lifeblood of your company. The modest cost in time and money of a well-maintained anti-virus program is a bargain. Finally, office suite programs, such as those from Microsoft and Corel, contain a lot of hidden information, such as data on the author, prior revisions, hidden text or cells, comments and the like. Programs are available to do metadata removal before sending out documents. Without it, it is relatively easy to access this information, which can include comments on strategy in offers, proposals and other documents you send out.