Free Enterprise - FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog


What is a Mechanic's Lien?

After weeks of dust, banging and clanking, and construction, you completed a brand new bathroom with a huge tub, two sinks, and heated tile floors for your customer. While the customer is luxuriating in his new comfort, he refuses to pay you!

How do you get your money? Have you considered a mechanic's lien?

Here are three things you need to know about a mechanic's lien:

The less paper the better, right? But what about when you need a customer's John Hancock or a vendor needs yours? In an e-commerce world, are e-signatures valid?

Both technology and the law are creating more instances where businesses can employ electronic signatures, so let's look at if and when your business should use them.

Is your business is located in California, Ohio, Oregon, Alaska, or one of the other earthquake prone places? Do you have earthquake insurance?

Do you really need it?

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) predicts that a 6.7 magnitude earthquake will occur every 6.3 years in California. The Northridge earthquake on January 17, 1994 was a 6.7 magnitude earthquake. It lasted 10 seconds. The quake killed 57 people, injured 9,000 people, and displaced over 125,000 people. At final count, 82,000 residential and commercial units were destroyed. It caused $20 billion in damages, and $49 billion in economic loss. Earthquake insurance claims were far greater than expected, over $12 billion.

Can you afford an earthquake without earthquake insurance?

Indiana's new 'religious freedom' law has been garnering a lot of attention since Gov. Mike Pence signed it into law on Thursday. The bill would purportedly give legal protections to business owners who refuse service to LGBT customers on the basis of religious freedom.

There are threats of business boycotts and boasts of discrimination, and voices from Apple's Tim Cook to the NCAA have stated their concerns over Indiana's new law. So let's take a look at how this new legislation could affect your business.

From the Sony hack to Hilary Clinton, work email has been all over the news lately. This may leave many employers wondering how closely they can or should monitor their employees' emails.

In some cases, federal law limits how much an employer can monitor electronic correspondence and protects certain kinds of speech in work emails. Employers need to have a plan in place (and make sure its legal) to keep this workplace convenience from becoming an office catastrophe.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the lower Missouri River basin, the Ohio River basin, and parts of western New York and eastern New England may face floods this spring. The National Flood Insurance Program warns that just a few inches of flood water can cause thousands of dollars in damage.

Is your business protected in case of a flood? If a flood damages not only your building but also your supplies and products, do you have the money to cover the costs?

With one in four businesses shutting down permanently after a natural disaster, do you need flood insurance?

What is the tip policy in your restaurant? Do your servers share tips with the busboys? Do you charge a set amount for parties of eight or more? Do you want to get rid of the headache of tips?

A growing number of restaurants are doing away with the concept of tipping completely. Bar Marco, an upscale Pittsburg restaurant, abolished their tip program opting to pay employees a base salary with health care benefits and stock shares instead. Brand 158, in California, adopted a no-tipping policy to discourage competition among employees. Servers at New York's Sushi Yasuda even run after customers to return tips. Are you considering implementing a no-tip policy for your restaurant?

What are some legal concerns of a no-tip policy you should worry about?

Severance packages are becoming more and more popular these days, and are no longer just golden parachutes for exiting executives. In fact, some states require severance pay in certain circumstances.

So how do you know when to offer soon-to-be-former employees severance packages, and what does a severance package need to include? Here are a few tips to help:

Whether you're an established business that doesn't want its proprietary information used by a competitor, or an upstart that doesn't want its secrets getting out, you may be looking at a non-compete agreement as a way to protect your trade secrets and maintain your customer base.

And the key to creating an enforceable non-compete agreement is all in the craft. So, here are a few considerations to keep in mind when crafting your non-compete clause or contract:

You hate filing taxes. It's okay. Most people hate filing taxes. This is why we hire accountants to do our taxes for us. They're the experts. They have the training. We trust them to do a good job.

But, what happens when you get audited and assessed a penalty by the IRS? Can you sue your accountant?