Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog


Gone are the days that small business owners can just focus on dollars and cents. If you're not on the lookout for crimes and scams, you stand to lose more than a little profit.

Scammers can destroy your small business' credit and reputation overnight, so you need to be vigilant when protecting what you've built. But you can't stop a scam if you don't know what to look for, so here are seven of the most common scams targeting small businesses.

While some small businesses are gearing up for the Christmas sale rush, others might be winding down for the holiday season. And whether you're anticipating a rush of customers into your business or a flood of employees out on vacation, you also have to be on guard for the annual holiday crime spike.

Whether its shoplifters who can't afford or don't want to pay for a gift, or staffing illegally adding to their year-end bonus, take these five tips to heart when trying to prevent Christmas crime at your small business.

Employers Prohibited From Asking 'What's Your Salary History?'

In certain states, cities, and municipalities, new laws prohibit potential employers from asking job applicants for their salary history. These laws may also require employers to disclose their salary range if the applicant requests that information. The purpose of these new laws is to protect applicants from employment discrimination.

Employers must comply with the new laws or face liability. However, according to Bloomberg, some states have enacted the prohibition about asking for an applicant's salary history, many have delayed an applicant's ability to sue or seek punitive damages, presumably to allow employers to learn how to comply with the new legislation.

Most have us, at some point in our daily lives or travels, have come across a shop serving its customers through bulletproof glass. Maybe it was a gas station or a convenience store, but the assumption is always pretty similar -- this must be a rough neighborhood, and this place probably has a good reason for having the glass up.

But Philadelphia is trying to bring the bulletproof glass down, at least in some of its establishments. And to understand why, it might be useful to explain how Philly's "beer delis" are a little different than your average corner store.

We might remember 2014 as the Year of the Data Breach. But 2017 saw what has the potential to be the most catastrophic hack in history. And 2018 might be the year when Congress cracks down on companies concealing data breaches.

Last week, three senators introduced new legislation that would require companies to report data breaches within 30 days, and even provide prison time for executives who knowingly conceal a data breach.

It's been a boilerplate part of every employment application for decades: "Have you been convicted of a crime?" For employers, it may have been an easy way to cull the list of job applicants, or an attempt to weed out any unsavory characters.

But there are movements afoot to remove the question from job applications, or, if not, to incentivize businesses to hire felons and ex-convicts. While small businesses may still be wary of hiring someone with a criminal record, there might be a few good reasons to do so. So here are a few legal angles to consider if you're thinking about hiring felons, from our archives:

The State of California filed a lawsuit last week claiming a janitorial company, responsible for cleaning retail stores like Ross, JoAnn's Fabrics, Burlington Coat Factory, and Toys R Us, violated state wage and tax laws.

One Source Facility Solution is accused of failing to pay workers the minimum wage, underreporting payroll taxes, and providing false payroll information to its workers' compensation insurance carrier. The lawsuit alleges One Source janitors "have not received and do not receive the state-mandated minimum wage for all of the hours they work."

Perhaps it's the holiday spirit; maybe it's the political state of the world; or it could be that you are just a generous and considerate entrepreneur. Whatever the reason, small business owners are looking for more ways to be charitable and give back to their local communities. And there's evidence that giving locally as a small business can mean getting a lot back in return.

So if you want to make sure your small business does good at the same time it does well, here are three ideas.

Alternatives to Holiday Bonuses

The holiday bonus: a not-so-subtle stocking stuffer to show your staff you appreciate all of their contributions to the company over the past year. And while a few extra bucks on their paycheck can make for some happy employees, the battle over how much the bonus should be and on what it should be based can put a damper on the holiday spirit. Plus, cash can be boring.

So how do you avoid the ubiquity and difficulty of the standard holiday bonus? Here are three alternative gifts you and your employees may find more appealing:

Did you know that Instacart shoppers went on strike on November 19 and 20? Probably not, that is, unless you read the news about it. Despite the negative press the company has gotten over the low wages that their independent contractor shoppers earn, an Insta-Shopper strike came and went without so much as a noticeable service disruption.

This is likely due to the fact that the $3.4 billion company has some pretty deep pools of contractors. It boasts hundreds of thousands of shoppers across the country. This means that for a strike to truly be effective, it would require some serious labor organization work, as well as the agreement of at least tens of thousands of the most active contractors.

For smaller startups, being that "strike-proof" may be a pipe dream, but if you rely on a large group of independent contractors, you can learn a lesson or two from Instacart.