Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog


The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego is one of the premier scientific research labs in the world. After all, it's named after the man who cured polio. And you would think that an institute studying cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, would treat all of its researchers equally, and reward them based on merit alone.

But three female professors at Salk have sued the institute, claiming a "hostile environment in which they are undermined, disrespected, disparaged, and treated unequally."

You had those kids for a reason, right? You might be wondering when you can put those precious bundles of economic dependence to work earning their keep.

If you run a family business, you can put your kids to work as soon as you think they're able to add value. Before you offer them that job though, you should talk to your lawyer to see exactly how much you can get away with, as many legal employment requirements are state specific. Generally though, employing your kid should save you much more money than that pre-hiring legal consultation is going to cost you.

President Donald Trump has been adamant in his "America First" rhetoric, saying recently, "Clearly it's time for a new policy, one defined by two simple rules: We will buy American. And we will hire American." But sometimes the interests of American companies and American workers aren't so closely aligned.

"As a demonstration of the administration's commitment to supporting American businesses," said Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, the government will provide 15,000 additional visas for foreign seasonal workers. The move is designed to aid "U.S. businesses in danger of suffering irreparable harm due to a lack of available temporary nonagricultural workers," but not be welcomed by groups advocating for more employment for U.S. workers.

A civil rights employment lawsuit filed by a former employee against the Sanitary Garbage Company, Inc. of Beatrice, Nebraska, resulted in a $1 jury verdict in favor of the employee. The lawsuit filed by Jonathan Curry alleged race discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

However, there was only one claim which the jury found convincing. That claim involved coworker racial harassment. Clearly, the jury did not find much harm had resulted as a result of the coworker harassment, as they only awarded the minimum amount allowable, a single dollar. Notably, the jury returned their verdict in only a few short hours.

If you fire an employee, it's normally for a good reason. And when a prospective or future employer calls asking regarding a reference for a fired employee, you might feel obligated to be honest. Generally speaking, former employers can't be sued for a negative employment reference so long as they are honest about an employee's employment history and record.

But what happens if you've signed a settlement agreement requiring a fired employee to receive a "neutral employment reference" in the future? And does saying that fired employee was "defiant" count as being neutral? The city of Conway, South Carolina and its fire department may soon find out.

The availability and affordability of housing in Silicon Valley has been making national headlines for several years now. Suburban California towns like, Palo Alto and Mountain View, with not much more to offer than proximity to work and the California sun (sorry Stanford, you're a little boring), have seen rents increase beyond those in New York City.

In response to the decreased supply, and increased cost, of housing in Menlo Park, where Facebook is headquartered, the social media giant has announced plans to build a residential village, with housing, shops, transit and more.

Few businesses operate without taking on some form of debt. The problems that can arise with taking on debt can often be avoided by making sure that payments to creditors are made on time. When a business fails to pay on time, a creditor can seek to enforce a debt.

However, when a business can’t pay a debt being enforced, business owners often wonder what options they have to get rid of the debt. Below, you’ll find five of the top legal questions small business owners have about business debts and bankruptcies.

When small business owners start out, often, they use their own personal accounts to get going. And it's not just limited personal bank and credit card accounts, but also personal phone lines, personal internet services, and even personal cable TV or music subscriptions.

Small business can operate for years using personal services, but legally, it could result in some serious legal trouble. For example, if your business operates from your personal bank account, even if you are structured as a corporation, you will likely be found personally liable in any legal disputes the business faces.

The age old practice of boozing and schmoozing may not be as socially acceptable during the workday as it once was, but that doesn't mean you can't knock a few back during negotiations, or after-hours. However, when it comes time to sign contracts or agreements, making sure the person signing can keep their pen within the lines on the page is rather important.

Whether you are signing up a new client, customer, or business partner, not allowing potential agreements to be executed while intoxicated could save you from a potential legal battle over advantageous terms, or overall contract enforceability. The missed opportunities from not allowing contracts to be signed while people are drunk are likely negligible, especially when compared to the potential pitfalls and costs of litigating contract enforceability.

Starting a new business, particularly a tech startup, can be filled with legal pitfalls for the unprepared. If a company is not ready to address legal problems that can arise early on, then VCs will be unlikely to invest, and the startup may not be able to survive past infancy.

Since each business is different, the potential legal problems tend to vary, even within industries. Below, you'll find three of the more common legal risks that tech startups face.