Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog


Corporate espionage is not just a plot device that moves along the plot of James Bond movies, it's also a real thing that actually happens, allegedly at least. A recent class action lawsuit, filed by a ride share driver is alleging that Uber used a top secret spyware program called "Hell" to track Uber drivers that were also driving for their competitor Lyft in order to offer incentives to those drivers to spend more time on Uber than Lyft.

The class action is alleging claims under federal wiretapping, and California's unfair competition and privacy laws. If the allegations are proven, there could be some rather severe consequences for Uber.

While the flashy pseudo-sharing economy start-ups like Uber, Lyft, Instacart, and TaskRabbit are known for popularizing the building of empires off the exploitation of contractors, the current trend is pushing away from the contractor-based employment model.

As many companies that utilize contractor based services have learned in the past, mischaracterizing employees as contractors can be a costly, multi-million dollar, mistake. Here are the top three advantages for businesses that choose to hire full time employees rather than rely on contractors.

Maybe you started a family business because you want to love who you work with, to keep the profits in the family, or to establish a brand that will last generations. Or maybe you were just born into it. Either way, managing family members in the workplace may be very different than maintaining those relationships at home. Especially when financial, corporate, and employment laws are involved.

Here are five tips for managing relatives in a family-run small business, from our archives:

Entrepreneurs are optimists by nature -- no one starts their own business to see it fail. And the last thing most small business owners are thinking about when they're starting up is declaring bankruptcy. But failure is a fact of life, and not all businesses make it.

That said, declaring bankruptcy doesn't necessarily mean your small business is a failure. Plenty of big businesses have declared bankruptcy only to rebound stronger than before. But what happens to your business after declaring bankruptcy will depend on the type of bankruptcy you file. Chapter 7 and Chapter 11 are two of the most-filed types of bankruptcies for small businesses, so let's see how they stack up.

The Americans with Disabilities Act is perhaps the civil rights law that businesses fear the most. Stories abound of businesses that were sued out of existence for violating state disability access laws that mirror the federal law, and most of these stories focus on how a small business was "extorted" out of business by allegedly unscrupulous ADA plaintiffs and lawyers. Rarely do these stories explain that the ADA plaintiffs face discrimination when businesses fail to comply with the law and put in the legally required accessible features.

These attitudes contribute greatly to the continued discrimination, and to make matters worse, over the past few years, businesses have been successful in limiting the rights of access discrimination plaintiffs to bring legal actions under various state laws. Most recently, new legislation signed by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey will make it more difficult for Americans with Disabilities Act plaintiffs to file lawsuits against businesses with architectural barriers in that state. While many businesses are rejoicing in the new legislation, disability advocacy groups are anything but pleased with the new rules.

As we've said here before, patents can be vital to your small business. Beyond protecting your inventions and ideas, patents can add value to your business for investors or a possible future sale. And yet many entrepreneurs and small business owners fail to file for patents for fear that the process is too complex.

But the United States Patent and Trademark Office is aiming to change that perception and the reality of filing for patent protection. Here's how:

Would a small business by any other name be just as successful? When it comes to naming your business, you've got to think about everything from how that name will look with a nice logo to how it will resonate with customers and clients. And you've got some legal considerations, too.

From incorporating and trademarks to website URLs, here's some of our best legal advice for naming a small business, from our archives:

When it comes to the world of 3D printing, businesses that can benefit from the new technology need to be cognizant of the liabilities, which can be numerous. Like nearly every other business, 3D printers might be best served by contracting around those liabilities.

For instance, a company that is only engaged in printing objects according to their customer's design may want to require their customers to sign indemnification agreements before commencing to print. That's because a manufacturer could face exposure to liability for injuries caused by items or products manufactured in their facility, even if the manufacturer had nothing to do with the design.

A lawsuit out of Harris County, Texas, is making headlines due to the rare allegation of Christian on Christian religious discrimination. While normally discrimination is considered to be a result of one group/class of individuals being favored over a different group/class, sometimes discrimination can occur from within a single group.

Like in this Texas case, individuals can face discrimination for religious, ethnic, or other reasons, because the perpetrators have unrealistic expectations about their own group/class. The Harris County case is alleging that the woman was discriminated against because she was not Christian enough. Specifically, the employee was demoted after complaining about and refusing to distribute religious literature, and she eventually felt forced to resign after her opposition was ignored. Most surprisingly, the employee was told that she "needed to examine her walk with Jesus," whatever that was intended to mean.

When you open a family business, you love the people you work with. But let's face it, none of us like our coworkers all 40 hours out of the week. And when you're working with family, those office tiffs can spill over into the home.

So when it comes time to sever ties with an employee who also happens to be related, things can get a little dicey, both personally and legally. Here's how to handle it.