Free Enterprise - FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog


The NLRB has ordered Mercedes-Benz to remedy three labor law violations in one of its plants, mostly by revising solicitation policies with regard to unions.

An administrative law judge ruled Thursday that employees at the car manufacturer's Vance, Alabama, plant was violating employees' Section 7 rights by prohibiting soliciting for any purpose in the office -- even in "mixed use" areas, reports The Tuscaloosa News. Small business owners should be wary of even "neutral" policies that might stifle union participation, and Mercedes-Benz learned that the hard way.

Here are three takeaways for business owners who may not be the size of Mercedes-Benz:

As we've recently discussed, your business may require various types of insurance to protect it from the unpredictable storms of liability. But as you might imagine, it was impossible to cover all of the many helpful types of business insurance in the same digital breath.

For example, what about employee health insurance? Or insurance for corporate events? We hear you.

Now that we've had a breather, here are five more types of insurance your business may need:

YouTube star Michelle Phan has been slapped with a copyright-infringement lawsuit over her use of background music in her makeup tutorials.

The do-it-yourself online makeup sensation is accused of rising to commercial success by illegally using copyrighted music by artists like Deadmau5 and Kaskade in her videos. While Phan insists she didn't infringe on any copyrights, business owners may be wondering: Isn't there a way for entrepreneurs like Phan to use music without being sued?

Learn from Phan's copyright suit with these three business lessons:

Many small business owners who deduct expenses for work clothes and uniforms on their taxes may want to look a bit closer at the tax rules. It turns out that many entrepreneurs choose to write off expenses that may not actually be tax-deductible at all, including clothing.

So are your business' work clothes and/or uniforms tax-deductible expenses? Here are some general guidelines:

Small businesses may be very successful raising funds through Kickstarter, but those who receive those funds shouldn't forget the potential tax implications of crowdfunding.

For its part, Kickstarter (with the caveat that they are not tax attorneys) claims that in general, "funds raised on Kickstarter are considered income." However, the crowdfunding platform also claims that Kickstarters may be able to classify certain funds as "nontaxable gifts" instead.

So which is it? Should businesses treat Kickstarter or crowdfunding money as taxable income?

President Obama has signed an executive order barring the federal government and its contractors from discriminating against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees.

Private employers in many states can still fire employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, so this executive order gives a new layer of employment protection for some LGBT workers. The Huffington Post reports that this order does not include an exemption for religious employers.

How exactly will this executive order change employers' anti-discrimination policies?

A Yahoo! executive who's being sued over alleged sexual harassment has countersued her accuser for defamation.

Maria Zhang, Yahoo!'s Senior Director of Engineering, filed suit against Nan Shi, the woman who accused her of coercing her into multiple sexual encounters for fear of her job. Zhang claims in her countersuit that the allegations are entirely false and that Shi's only goal is "financial gain," GeekWire reports.

Could Zhang's accuser be facing more liability than the Yahoo! exec?

The Internet's sharing economy -- fueled by breakthrough startups like Airbnb and Uber -- has made its way into a somewhat unlikely new area: musical instruments.

A new service called Sparkplug allows musicians with musical instruments, gear, or practice spaces that aren't being used to rent it out to other musicians who may need it. Unlike Craigslist, eBay, or other sites where users can buy and sell musical gear, Sparkplug allows musicians with valuable equipment to generate income during downtime without having to part ways with a prized musical instrument or hard-to-find amplifier.

Sound like something you'd be interested in? Here are five legal tips for using this new musical sharing service:

Layoffs are an unpleasant task for any small business, and if they can be avoided, all the better.

That may have been a discussion within Microsoft prior to its announcement that the company would be cutting 18,000 jobs. The New York Times reports the tech giant will be making the lion's share of cuts from its Nokia-acquired groups -- about 12,500 jobs. Severance pay and other layoff costs add up for any company, and Microsoft estimates it will dole out between $1.1 to $1.6 billion to cover the massive cuts.

While your business isn't as big as Microsoft, you may be able to avoid layoffs by considering these seven legal tactics:

Iconic American theme park Disneyland opened 59 years ago today.

And as you might imagine, over the last six decades, Disneyland and its parent corporation Disney have been involved in a fair amount of litigation, from personal injury lawsuits to intellectual property disputes.

Here are five lessons your business can learn from Disney's long legal history: