Free Enterprise - FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog


As a small business owner, you should already be aware that you have a responsibility to protect your customers and employees from harassment in the workplace. But that's a pretty broad obligation. What, specifically, do you need to do to prevent harassment? What are your legal responsibilities when responding to complaints of harassment? And do they vary depending on the type of harassment?

Here are the most common workplace harassment questions small business owners face, and where to look for answers:

The World Wide Web is the wild wild west for intellectual property. Those esoteric concepts of copyrights and trademarks and patents often fall by the wayside for businesses looking to promote their business, or maybe even get their start, both online, and in the real world. Photos, videos, and other content are easily steal-able online, and just because it's easy, that doesn't make it legal. As such, businesses do need to be careful when selecting which photos and what type of media they want to use for promotional purposes.

If you're building your own website, or your web designer is asking you for photos, you can't just go and download any photo you see online. Even if you want to use a photo posted to Facebook, Twitter, or Yelp, on your website, you could face legal liability if you do not get permission from the photographer or from the website the photo is posted to. Luckily, social media makes it rather easy to contact users via in-site messaging.

You placed all the ads, reviewed all the resumes, interviewed all the candidates, and hired the perfect staff for your small business. Now that you've got the best and brightest employees in the office, how do you keep them there?

As CNBC reports, one of the biggest factors to employee retention is whether your employees see an internal career path that allows for opportunities to advance within the company. And those businesses that lack internal mobility programs are more likely to see their best employees searching for those opportunities at other firms.

Depending on the type of business you run, hiring freelancers or independent contractors may be necessary from time to time, or maybe even regularly. An all too often overlooked aspect of hiring freelancers or independent contractors is the written hiring contract itself.

A small business owner should, like larger businesses, take control of their contracts whenever possible. This means that contracts should be drafted by the business and not the freelancers or contractors. Doing so enables the business to adequately protect its legal interests, of which there could be many.

Below, you'll find several common terms that should be considered for your freelancer or contractor agreements.

It's been quite the year for Volkswagen. The car maker was rocked by scandal after it was caught cheating on emissions tests, polluting the environment, and trying to cover the whole thing up. But when some were wondering if the company's rep could ever recover, VW went out and set annual sales records, including a recent jump in December.

And now that it's wrapping up the emissions scandal, paying $4.3 billion to settle civil and criminal charges with U.S. regulators, the worst might be behind the embattled Volkswagen brand.

The American automaker Chrysler Fiat, which claims to be America's Import, has unintentionally followed the lead of an actual popular import, Volkswagen. Unfortunately for the US automaker, the lead they are following isn't related to German driving culture. Instead, it's getting busted by the Environmental Protection Agency for deceptive diesel engine emissions.

Only the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 models with the 3.0 liter diesel engine have been listed as possibly being involved. Additionally, this only effects the model years 2014, 2015, and 2016.

When Starbucks announced it would start serving craft beer and wine along with their caffeine, it made a certain amount of sense -- after all, you might need a shot or two of booze to counteract all those shots of espresso. (The coffee giant has since ended the practice, but our point still stands.)

Plenty of businesses have been branching out into booze sales lately, but these five might be the oddest stores in which to get sloshed.

The beginning of a new year is a perfect time for business owners, especially new business owners in partnerships, to take a step back and make sure everything is in order. A lot can change over the course of a year, and the beginning of the year is a good time to look at where you, as a business owner, are personally vulnerable to losing your ownership interest. Conversely, if a business partner has not been living up to their end of the partnership, it may be time to squeeze them out.

One of the most important documents business owners often overlook is their buy-sell agreement. A buy-sell agreement is typically the document that controls when a business partner can be bought out, or can sell their interest. They can also be viewed as business wills, or a succession plan of sorts. Frequently, for partnerships and joint ownerships, there are triggering mechanisms in these agreements that enable owners to sell their interests or be bought out only by other owners.

While not all employers will be impacted by the incoming president's plans to reform immigration, any employer that hires non-permanent resident immigrants may have to change the way they do business. A principal concern for employers that hire immigrant workers is whether and how the process will change, particularly for H-1B visas.

Unless you've been intentionally avoiding the news, you've likely heard about plans to "reform" business immigration, punish sanctuary cities, and deport undocumented immigrants. While many political analysts speculated that Trump's campaign promises were empty threats, businesses might be well advised to have a contingency plan in place and to get ready for change. Speculators believe that Trump may push for the imposition of stricter requirements for showing the need for H-1B workers.

Despite most retailers still enjoying the revenues from the holiday shopping season, a former leader of department stores, Sears, is having a grim start to the year. In fact, analysts are predicting that Sears will be forced to declare bankruptcy within the next two years if something doesn't drastically change. CEO and billionaire Eddie Lampert is basically extending a line of credit to keep the retailer afloat.

While declaring bankruptcy for Sears may not be the end for the retailer, it is certainly looking like the likeliest path to continue existing at all. The retailer has been selling off assets, iconic properties, and even their exclusive brands. It's no secret that traditional brick and mortar retailers have been struggling since online shopping became normalized. However, many people have been fearing the fall of the Sears empire and what that means.