• Course Introduction

        Law, in its simplest form, is used to protect one party from another. For instance, laws protect customers from being exploited by companies. Laws protect companies from other companies. Laws even protect citizens and corporations from the government. However, law is neither perfect nor all encompassing. Sometimes, societal ethics fill the voids that laws leave behind; other times, usually when societal ethics have been systematically violated by a group of the population, we write laws that are designed to require individuals to live up to certain ethical standards. In the backlash of the Enron scandal (where Enron executives used accounting tricks to hide losses) for example, new accounting laws were passed. Similarly, as a result of the financial crisis of 2008, legislators proposed new regulations designed to enforce a certain standard of ethical behavior within the financial services industry.

        This course will introduce you to the laws and ethical standards that managers must abide by in the course of conducting business. Laws and ethics almost always shape a company's decision-making process: a bank cannot charge any interest rate it wants to charge - that rate must be appropriate. Car manufacturers must install hardware and develop new technologies to keep up with regulations designed to reduce pollution. By the end of this course, you will have a clear understanding of the legal and ethical environment in which businesses operate.

        After familiarizing yourself with the following course syllabus, enroll in this course using the "Enroll me in this courseā€ button. Once enrolled, navigate to Unit 1 of the course to read the Unit Introduction and Unit 1 Learning Outcomes. Links and instructions for all unit specific course resources will follow the introductory materials.

      • Unit 1: The Nature and Sources of Law

        This unit will ask a series of broad questions about the law. How does a law come into being? Legislators pass laws, of course, but how do regulating bodies and judicial precedent contribute to the process? In a broader sense, why do we have laws at all? Is it possible for us to govern ourselves?

        We will explore the historical events that have shaped business law in the United States. We will also review U.S. court systems, discussing the roles they play in shaping the business law of the country and learning how they enforce those laws. As a business professional, it is important that you understand and appreciate how laws serve to regulate the legal environment of business.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 7 hours.

      • Unit 2: Litigation vs. Alternative Dispute Resolution

        In general, legal problems between private parties can be addressed in two basic ways: through the courts, or through less formal alternatives. In this unit, we will look at both the litigation process, which involves the courts, and these less formal alternatives to handling conflicts, known as Alternative Dispute Resolution or ADR.

        Going to court is usually an expensive and time-consuming prospect. Businesses, which are always looking for ways to more effectively manage costs and other resources, can conserve both by first considering other ways to resolve disputes. For example, before going to court over the failure of a third party to properly install equipment, a business might first consider entering into informal negotiations with the installer to reach a conclusion that is satisfactory to both sides. If this fails, the business might propose the use of a mediator to reach a mutually beneficial result. Often, contracts contain a provision requiring issues be submitted to arbitration with a non-governmental official or organization that acts, in essence, as judge and jury in the matter. If these efforts fail, or it is apparent that ADR would be unworkable from the beginning, then businesses need to consider whether a dispute is best resolved in court, with all of its formal requirements and protections.

        This unit will begin by looking at the process by which businesses litigate disputes, who is involved in litigation, and what procedural requirements must be met in order to successfully litigate a dispute. It will then cover various methods of ADR available to businesses, and consider how they can be effectively used to deal with disputes.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 7 hours.

      • Unit 3: Torts

        This unit discusses tort, which is a branch of law that involves the enforcement of civil wrongs in the absence of contracts. For example, if you are hit by another vehicle and want to sue for medical costs, there is no contract between you and the driver, so this lawsuit would be carried out within the tort system. When the terms of an existing contract are violated, enforcement must be carried out outside the tort system.

        Tort law allows individuals and businesses that have been wronged to receive compensation for that wrongdoing. Tort law is frequently used in situations involving medical negligence. If your doctor accidentally amputated the wrong arm and you wish to sue, you would sue based on tort law. There are a number of different types of torts, but the most common is negligence, which involves a breach of the "duty of care." In other words, in order to sue on negligence, you must be able to prove a person was responsible for something violated that responsibility.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 4 hours.

      • Unit 4: Contracts

        This unit discusses contracts, which come in all shapes and sizes. You enter into a contract with a broker and seller when you purchase a house. Businesses enter into contracts with other businesses to set prices and solidify relationships. If you want reliable work done on your house, you will have a contract with a contractor (hence the name).

        Contracts are legally-binding relationships. In most circumstances, a contract involves an agreement to deliver a product or service at a specified time on a specified date. Violating a contract can result in a lawsuit or some kind of settlement. While courts can be involved in this process, these situations can also be settled outside of the judicial system. Laws regarding contracts vary from state to state, so it is always important to know the contract law in your area. This unit discusses contracts in detail, but it cannot cover everything. By the end of this unit, you should be familiar with how most contracts are written and enforced.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.

      • Unit 5: Property Law

        The idea of property usually strikes people as a fairly simple concept. However, the law recognizes that the interests in various types of property are often anything but simple and can sometimes result in highly complex problems. For example, if you sell your house to someone, what stays as part of the house, and what can you take with you when you leave? Certainly you would have an automatic right to take your clothes, your furniture, and your photographs and artwork. But what about a favorite chandelier? How about a built-in island in the kitchen? Can you take the windows? The law recognizes two categories of property. There is real property, which is land and anything attached to it, such as a house and items attached to it. Alternatively, there is personal property, which is everything else. This unit will help you determine why one item can be personal property in one situation and real property in another.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 3 hours.

      • Unit 6: Intellectual Property

        Intellectual property is anything that is developed through intellectual and creative processes. Intellectual property includes such things as patents, copyrights, trade secrets, and trademarks. Protecting intellectual property rights is important, because companies often invest a great deal of time and resources in developing new inventions. It would not be worth the investment if competitors could reproduce these inventions without permission or compensation to the owners. Not surprisingly, intellectual property represents a very significant part of many businesses' net worth. According to Forbes Magazine, intellectual property represents more than 80% of a typical business' value.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 7 hours.

      • Unit 7: Employment Law

        This unit will introduce you to employment law, also known as labor law, regulations that are typically designed to protect the employee from the employer. For example, though a number of Constitutional amendments give equal rights to all races, religions, and genders, issues pertaining to diversity still plague the workforce. Employment law looks at these issues.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 4 hours.

      • Unit 8: Criminal Law and Business

        Like torts, criminal law deals with what happens when an individual or group of individuals commits a wrong against another individual or group of individuals. However, criminal laws are enforceable through prosecution by the state. Criminal law pertains to the direct violation of an existing law. In criminal law cases, there is a prosecution, a defense, and, in many cases, a jury of peers. This unit will focus on criminal law in the business community.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 3 hours.

      • Unit 9: Business Organizations

        Corporations are legal entities that protect shareholders from certain legal liabilities. For example, if you start a sole proprietorship and take out a small business loan to get started, you are personally liable for that loan. If you do not repay the loan, the bank can pursue your personal assets. If you are a shareholder in a corporation that fails to pay its loans, however, the bank cannot pursue your personal assets.

        Being a corporation has its own caveats. For example, corporations are subject to more regulations and fees. This unit will look into the various types of business entities in the United States and weigh the pros and cons of each. This unit emphasizes corporations because they are the most common kind of entity that most employees will work for.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 6 hours.

      • Unit 10: Business Regulation

        Regulation is always a source of debate within the business community. In the wake of Enron's massive fraud, for example, legislators passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) in an attempt to force corporations to be more diligent in their reporting and auditing. As a result, many corporations have gone private to avoid SOX regulations. Regulations are passed all the time; because of this, it is important that managers be aware of potential regulations and any regulations proposed for removal that could affect their business.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 3 hours.

      • Study Guides and Review Exercises

        These study guides are intended to help reinforce key concepts in each unit in preparation for the final exam. Each unit study guide aligns with course outcomes and provides a summary of the core competencies and a list of vocabulary terms. The study guides are not meant to replace the readings and videos that make up the course.

        The vocabulary lists include some terms that might help you answer some of the review items, and some terms you should be familiar with to be successful in completing the final exam for the course.