Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog


Ever wonder why buffets are such a good deal? Well, in the case of four Bay Area Chinese buffet restaurants -- Golden Dragon Buffet in Brentwood, New Dragon Buffet in San Leandro, Golden Wok Buffet in Roseville, and Kokyo Sushi Buffet in Hayward -- they could afford to keep their prices down because they were paying workers less than $6 an hour and forcing them to work 12-hour shifts with no overtime. Oh, and they were also cheating on their taxes.

Now three of the chain's operators are heading to jail, must pay back $4.5 million to their workers, and owe the state of California $1.5 million in back taxes.

Any time states move from marijuana criminalization to legalization, there are a multitude of legal issues to work out first. Not the least of which are: who can buy, who can sell, and how much. But some of the smaller questions turn out to be the hardest to answer. Like, who can transport the marijuana from production facilities to retail stores?

When Nevada legalized it last year, they thought they were doing the simple thing by requiring recreational marijuana to be regulated the same way as alcohol products in the state. But does that mean that Nevada's wholesale alcohol distributors are the only ones that can move pot from cultivation to customer? For now, yes.

It's officially summer, when many of us are heading out of the office and onto a lake, river, or ocean to partake in our favorite relaxing pastime. And while a little fishing can be good for the soul, a little phishing can be bad for business.

Cyber attacks using familiar looking domain names or email addresses or formats can be both difficult to detect and destructive to your company's data and security. So here's how to spot a phishing attack -- and not fall for the bait -- from our archives.

Starting a business is no simple task. It takes money, planning, time, effort, more money, fine tuning, and gumption. Unfortunately, business owners can let all that they've worked to accomplish be put at risk if they're not ready to withstand, fight, and pay for lawsuits.

Whether it's a contract dispute from a vendor, a customer slip and fall, or a wrongful termination case, being on the receiving end of a lawsuit can be a nightmare. However, if a business is properly insured and ready to manage their public image, even unwinnable lawsuits can be weathered with minimal disruption to revenues and profits.

As a general rule, non-compete agreements and clauses in employment contracts are difficult to enforce. First they must be narrowly tailored enough to be valid, and many courts are loathe to tell people where they can and cannot work. That is especially true in California in general and Silicon Valley in particular, where, as GeekWire notes, "non-compete agreements have long been considered unenforceable."

Not so farther north in Washington State, where Amazon was able to obtain a temporary restraining order against a former executive in its Web Services division, barring him from working from a company the retail monolith contends is a competitor. But that company, and the exec currently in legal limbo, claim Amazon has stretched the definition of competitor too far, to even include a customer company.

For bosses and employers, every spring and summer and holiday season, it's the same old thing. Employees either have children in school, or don't want to let go of their school years. It's that time of year when all your employees are vying for the same vacation time.

Unfortunately, there are going to be times when an employer is going to have to deny a vacation request. This can often be difficult as employees can truly be upset when they are denied the ability to use their accrued vacation time.

Here are three tips to help you deny an employee's vacation request:

You've got your brand new small business idea -- you just need a place to launch. And finding the perfect space for your venture can be a complex equation of location, decor, amenities, and square footage. Finding the right landlord and lease is also essential, and, unfortunately for startups, landlords might be a little more hesitant to rent to businesses with little track record, or they may ask for additional clauses to ensure they get their rent.

One of those is a personal guarantee, which more and more commercial landlords are insisting upon from tenants. So how does it work? And can you get out of one?

Renee Rayton, a former sheriff's deputy and marijuana regulation compliance officer from Pitkin County, in Colorado, was recently indicted in an extensive interstate marijuana trafficking ring. Rayton's indictment, along with three others, issued June 7, raised the number of individuals charged in connection with the operation to 20.

Rayton was hired by Scott Pack to provide legal compliance consulting for his marijuana businesses. While there wouldn't seem to be a problem with a marijuana entrepreneur seeking legal compliance consulting, Rayton was subject to a law that requires industry regulators to wait six months between leaving a regulatory position for a job in the industry they were regulating. She was reportedly paid $8,000 per month for six months.

The First Amendment provides strong protections to protesters that express their views in public. However, when a protester's actions go beyond free expression in public, businesses can face unintended, and sometimes intended, casualties. And while there may be legal remedies, sometimes enforcing those remedies will be impossible.

For example, if a protester throws a brick through a shop's window, the individual protester can be held both criminally and civilly liable. The First Amendment does not protect against violent or destructive acts against other people's, or the public's, property. Businesses are often faced with the uncomfortable decision of pursuing an individual protester or the protest organizers for compensation, filing an insurance claim, or just eating the costs.

Last week, former U.S. Attorney Eric Holder shared detailed findings of his investigation into sexual harassment claims at Uber with a subcommittee of the company's board of directors. While the results of that investigation are unlikely to be made public, the fallout can't be kept a secret.

On Tuesday of last week Uber fired more than 20 people in response to multiple probes into the company's corporate culture and conduct, and this morning the company confirmed its second-most powerful executive, Emil Michael, is out as senior VP of business. And, considering neither investigation is over, more changes could be upcoming.