In the last several years, businesses large and small have come under fire for the decisions that they have made. Companies have been boycotted for their positions on issues ranging from gay marriage to guns, from mask mandates to hosting or supporting political parties and candidates, and in some cases they have been named in lawsuits. With cases involving businesses as small as mom-and-pop bakeries making it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, it’s important for entrepreneurs to understand that they have rights in the same way that individual citizens do, and to know what those rights are.

Few people are aware that businesses have rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution, as well as certain responsibilities.  While their constitutional responsibilities largely surround regulations and paying taxes, the rights surround the right to free speech, the right to free association, and the rights of corporations. When you translate these rights from the high-level language of the Bill of Rights down to how they apply to everyday business, they come down to the following basic abilities:

  • The right to make decisions about how you run your business as long as it is not in violation of any federal, state or local laws
  • The right to refuse to supply goods and services as long as it is not in violation of federal, state or local laws
  • The right to invest as much capital in your business as you want or believe you need to ensure success and increased productivity

If you are a business owner, these rights have real applications in terms of the day-to-day operation of your business. They mean that you can donate to any political campaign that you wish, that you can publicly support a religious belief or social group, that you can choose what products you want to sell and which you refuse to sell, and that you can deny service to individual customers or organizations as long as you do not do so in violation of their civil rights.

Recent examples of how these rights work have made the national news. Dick’s Sporting Goods and others chose to stop selling guns and ammunition. Individual businesses have denied entry to customers who refused to wear masks during the pandemic, even where their locales have no mask mandate. These decisions are legally protected, and while some businesses have faced legal action when their decisions are in violation of the law, in most cases customers who object to companies’ decisions have the ability to choose whether they are going to patronize a business or not.

For more information about your protections as a small business owner, contact our experienced small business attorneys today!