Free Enterprise - FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog


Barnes & Noble had to swallow a bitter pill in federal court on Monday, when a federal appeals court held that the retailer couldn't enforce legal provisions buried behind a link hidden on its website -- also known as a "browsewrap" agreement.

Almost every major company has an arbitration provision included in its website's Terms of Use, and B&N was no exception. However, as The Recorder reports, the onus is on the business to give notice of these terms. Consumers aren't likely legally bound by terms which are not conspicuously presented to them.

Though this new ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals technically only affects states within the circuit, it offers some insight as to what courts are looking for when it comes to "browsewrap" agreements. Here are three things business owners need to know:

A study released last month found that women are outperforming men in the increasingly lucrative world of online crowdfunding.

This is especially interesting, reports The Wall Street Journal, because women are typically only able to raise half as much startup capital as men, hampering the growth of their businesses. However, on crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, women are out-fundraising men even in traditionally male-dominated fields like gaming and technology, according to the study.

What does the study say is behind this surprising result?

Employers often have questions about the scope of employee or job applicant background checks, and sometimes a lack of information can lead to legal liability.

For business owners who plan to check on an employee or potential employee's credit history, a company must be very careful not to violate consumer protection laws -- specifically the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

Here are five potential ways to legally protect your business from FCRA suits when checking employee or applicants' credit:

Security cameras are a great way to monitor, as well as prevent, misconduct by both customers and employees.

But for business owners looking to save some money, it might be tempting to install fake security cameras in their business, saving themselves the cost of expensive video equipment while still enjoying the preventative benefits of security cameras. After all, if people think they're being watched, they'll behave better, right?

The answer, as you may have guessed, is not necessarily. Furthermore, dummy cameras can potentially expose you to legal liability.

Being hacked is every business owner's nightmare, but there are some important steps you should take if you believe you've been hacked.

A Tennessee-based health company announced on Monday that hackers had compromised its system, making off with the personal information of approximately 4.5 million patients. USA Today reports that Community Health Systems was possibly the victim of a Chinese hacking group that used "highly sophisticated malware and technology" to pilfer the data.

If you fear your business has been hacked, here are five first steps you may want to take:

Business owners may want to pay close attention to this news out of Utah: A woman is in critical condition after drinking tea laced with a toxic cleaning chemical at a Salt Lake City-area restaurant.

According to the woman's lawyer, investigators believe that the woman's sweet tea was contaminated with lye -- an industrial degreasing chemical, also found in drain cleaners such as Drano -- when a worker at a Dickey's Barbecue restaurant inadvertently mixed it into the sweet tea mixture thinking it was sugar. The woman suffered severe internal burns and it still hospitalized, The Associated Press reports.

What legal lessons can be learned from this unfortunate incident? Here are three:

Resume lies are nothing new, but as market pressures squeeze job applicants to distinguish themselves from their peers, some real working whoppers have risen to the top.

A recent CareerBuilder survey found that 58 percent of managers have caught applicants using lies on their resumes, and one-third of managers have seen this misbehavior increase since the recession, reports Business Insider.

So what are the 10 most egregious lies applicants have told on their resumes, and what can employers do about it?

Whether you're bringing on a new hire or renegotiating a current employee's contract, you need to stay on the legal level in negotiations.

As Forbes reports, many employers are getting pretty brazen with how they (mis)treat potential employees in salary negotiations or interviews. But you don't want to begin your employee-employer relationship to begin on tenuous or legally shaky ground.

To make sure your business is on the right side of negotiations, check out these five legal tips for negotiating employee contracts:

Lunch breaks are for eating, not sleeping. Right?

That was the rationale of Los Angeles sanitation officials, at least, when they passed a rule prohibiting sanitation workers from taking naps on their lunch breaks. The officials feared the bad publicity that could arise from members of the public seeing city workers sleeping in the middle of the day. Workers filed a class-action lawsuit against the city, saying that the policy robbed them of their lunch breaks. The city recently agreed to settle the suit for $26 million, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Does that mean it's illegal to prohibit naps at work?

When the chaos of a riot turns to looting, business owners often want to ensure that their livelihoods are not literally carried away by opportunistic criminals. So how can you legally defend your business from looters?

Some business owners in Ferguson, Missouri, are still reeling from the effects of a protest-turned-riot on Sunday. At least nine people were arrested for allegedly looting local businesses during the melee, reports St. Louis' KSDK-TV.

The unruly atmosphere may provide perfect cover for thefts and burglaries, but do business owners have any right to defend their property?