Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog


Last year was a busy time for small business owners. Between federal action on tax and immigration to state action on minimum wage and family leave, it might've seemed like you spent more time trying to keep pace with legal updates than running your small biz.

Well, here's the bad news first: 2018 isn't likely to get any simpler. But the good news is we're here for you, highlighting the new laws and legal trends you'll need to keep an eye on this year.

We live in politically-charged times, and we often don't check our opinions at the office door. And even if we do, the internet has an amazing knack for carrying them into work anyway.

From loose water cooler talk to social media posts that go viral, employees can often put their foot in their employer's mouth. So can you limit your workers' free speech? And do you have a legal obligation to accommodate it in the workplace? Here are a few helpful articles, from our archives:

While some of us would love to close up shop in the midst of a "bomb cyclone," we may not have that luxury, putting employers in the unenviable position of asking employees to work in some frigid conditions. From postmen to presidents, most of us still have to go to work in cold weather, so the question then becomes how to keep your workers safe from some of the most common winter work injuries.

Here are some tips:

If you were just getting your cannabiz off the ground, yesterday's news might've been quite the buzzkill. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded several Obama-era directives curtailing enforcement of federal prohibitions on the possession and sale of marijuana.

The memo directs U.S. Attorneys to "enforce the laws enacted by Congress and to follow well-established principles when pursuing prosecutions related to marijuana activities." So does this mean the feds are going to be raiding sellers in weed-legal states?

We all know that it's a free market, for the most part, and small business owners are willing to compete for customers and clients. Entrepreneurs often have faith that their product or service will be preferred, or at least they're willing to win some and lose some, without too much complaint, as long as they believe the playing field is level.

What about when circumstances that are out of your control, an "act of god" for example, cause you to lose business? Can you sue?

The Golden State has long been one of the most worker-friendly when it comes to everything from minimum wage to paid time off. California continues to roll out employee protections in 2018, prohibiting employers from including questions regarding salary history or criminal convictions on applications, or even inquiring during job interviews.

And these are just two major changes California employers need to be aware of in the coming year. Here's what you need to know for your small business.

Harvey Weinstein might've dominated the headlines this year, but the sexual assault allegations against the disgraced Hollywood producer were just the tip of a very large iceberg. Revelations of sexual harassment came to light from coast-to-coast and from industry-to-industry.

Here are the major workplace sexual harassment and assault stories from 2017:

Facebook has more personal data on its users than almost any other website, and certainly more than any other social media site. And that data is particularly valuable to advertisers, who like the ability to target ads as closely to their chosen demographic as possible. This goes for job ads as well, as employers want to reach people who live in a certain area or tout specific credentials like degrees or job experience on their profiles.

But there's a fine line between targeted ads and discrimination, and it can all depend on the individuals you're excluding from viewing your ad. A new lawsuit claims Facebook allowed major employers to target potential employees by age, allegedly discriminating against older users, some as young as 36.

When most of us think "human trafficking," we think of semi trucks loaded with immigrants, some tragically not surviving the journey. We're generally not thinking about $700/night Ritz-Carlton hotels in Beaver Creek, Colorado.

But human trafficking has many different faces, requiring many different people to be vigilant in the fight against it. Recently, the focus has turned to training employees and managers in restaurants, hotels, and others in the hospitality industry to prevent, spot, and report human trafficking. Here's why:

You don't need anyone to tell you that work isn't confined to the four walls of your office. Gone are the days of punching in and out at a time clock, and clients, customers, and employees will want contact no matter where you are or what time it is. This means doing a lot of business on the phone, and smartphones only increase the amount of work you can do away from your desk.

But is all this freedom a security risk? And does using a personal phone for work increase that risk?