Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog


Before he was a senior adviser to President Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, also Ivanka Trump's husband, ran Kushner Companies, his father's real estate development and lending company. Earlier this month, his sister, Nicole Kushner Meyer, invoked Jared's name when imploring Chinese investors to "invest $500,000 and immigrate to the United States."

But can investors really buy their way into a visa? And should your business be targeting such investors?

While going viral can be a boon for business, it can also lead to nightmarish PR disasters. Take for example the recent United Airlines scandal where a passenger was dragged off the plane. The incident made national news headlines for weeks and likely cost United quite a bit of business. Unfortunately, there was no scapegoat that United could point at to blame. But clearly, when an employee's on-duty conduct causes a public scandal, an employer will be justified in issuing an immediate termination.

When a single employee, or group of employees, end up going viral for all the wrong reasons, even if it involves off-duty conduct, not even remotely related to their job, an employer may need to sever ties to keep the company's reputation intact. In these scenarios, businesses need to keep their thumb on the PR pulse, but also have their finger on the trigger at the same time.

Most employers know about the various protected classes such as race, national origin, religion, gender, disability, medical condition, and sexual orientation. However, many employers are unaware of the fact that a person's genetic information is also protected.

Under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), employers are limited in what genetic information they can collect, and are prohibited from using that information in hiring, firing, or other employment decisions. Generally, genetic information includes things like DNA and other medical tests, and even medical histories for individuals and their family members.

Even though a virtual office employee can work from home in their underwear, broadcasting that fact to co-workers is rarely, if ever, appropriate. As virtual offices have become increasingly commonplace in the world of business, employers have been facing new and unique employment problems in the virtual workplace.

In addition to ensuring that employees maintain productivity while telecommuting, employers need to ensure that the virtual work environment does not expose them to liability from employee lawsuits. A common problem in virtual office environments is sexual harassment. Surprisingly, even non-human virtual assistants face an alarming amount of sexual harassment.

As more and more states continue to legalize marijuana, both recreationally and medically, more and more businesses are getting in on the money grab surrounding the world's largest cash crop. For marijuana business owners looking for financial and legal peace of mind, purchasing insurance becomes an important consideration.

Along with the typical kinds of insurance that all businesses need to maintain, such as workers' comp. for employees and premises liability coverage for customers, cannabiz owners need to evaluate whether other insurance coverages are in their best interest. Additionally, if owners decide to purchase specialty insurance, they need to carefully read the terms of each policy to know what may be excluded.

Hope for the best; plan for the worst. It's a good life strategy that can be essential for small business owners. While most of us don't want to plan for -- or even consider -- our businesses going bankrupt, it's a sad reality that many startups don't end well. And meeting that end with the right plan can protect you as the small business owner and may even give your business a second chance.

So here are the most important things you need to know about small business bankruptcy, from our archives:

As the field of robotics continues to advance, society keeps inching closer to that science fiction fantasy world with Robocop and ED-209 keeping law abiding citizens safe. However, one Silicon Valley company, Knightscope, has already started deploying security robots on behalf of clients seeking cost effective security enhancements.

Unfortunately, the robots can't stop criminals by themselves, and that is by design (protocol number 1: do not harm humans). The K5 robot functions as a roaming set of super-powered eyes and ears, that can identify some forms of danger, suspicious activity, and crime, then contemporaneously report what it sees to the humans in charge. They come equipped with thermal and infrared vision. Currently, the K5s have been deployed in parking lots, malls, arenas, and corporate campuses.

Trademarks exist in order to allow consumers to differentiate products and services that exist in a marketplace. When a business, other entity, or individual, puts time, money, and effort, into developing a valid trademark, the law provides certain protections for the trademark holder.

For instance, when trademarks look similar, or have the potential to confuse the public or consumers, a trademark infringement action can be brought against the infringing party. If the infringing party has profited off the use of the infringed-upon trademark, or has harmed the goodwill associated with the trademark, the amount of damages claimed can increase drastically. However, not all trademarks that appear to be similar or infringing will be found so under the law. There are several defenses to trademark infringement actions.

There are ways to contribute to a startup or small business that go beyond the standard 9-to-5. And there are ways to compensate for those contributions beyond the bi-weekly paycheck. For instance, while some partners will make financial investments in a company in hope of future success and return on that investment, others will put in the work to grow the company with the same goal in mind. And while cash might be tight in a startup's early days, you may want to compensate those efforts through shares or ownership stakes in the business.

Sweat equity, as opposed to financial equity, represents a party's work and effort contribution to a project, and can present some unique challenges when it comes to compensation. Here's a look at sweat equity agreements, and how you might want to structure them.

Last week, the US House of Representatives passed the Working Families Flexibility Act, sending the new proposed law to the Senate. This new law could have a significant impact on private businesses, small and large, as it restructures labor standards to allow more flexible overtime agreements.

The proposed law would allow private employers to offer employees the opportunity to "bank" overtime hours for later use, rather than be paid for the overtime when it is earned. The banked overtime hours would accrue at a 1.5 X rate, and employees could use the hours as "comp time" (akin to vacation) or cash the hours out. The big catch is that if an employee receives a raise before cashing out, they will be entitled to receive their new rate of pay for their banked hours.