Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

March 2013 Archives

Is NYC's Paid Sick Leave Bill a Good Idea?

The New York City Council has reached a deal on a mandatory paid sick leave bill that would affect companies with 15 or more employees.

If the plan is approved, workers will be able to take five paid days off for illness each year. The bill could affect 1 million New York City workers who currently do not have paid sick leave at work, reports New York's WNBC-TV.

But while the bill may seem like a great idea for workers, employers who are already struggling have some concerns.

Nordstrom 'TweetUp' Racks Up FTC Warning

Nordstrom Rack's "TweetUp" marketing campaign may have violated FTC rules, but the incident serves as a good legal reminder for business owners.

The retail chain opened a new store in Boise, Idaho, last spring. To trump up the event, several local residents who were active on Twitter and other social media were invited to a pre-opening event called a "VIP TweetUp," reports Boise's KTVB-TV.

Those who attended were given drinks, appetizers, gift cards, and a chance to do some early shopping. For the privilege of attending, party-goers were encouraged to tweet about the event. As a result, the store may have violated Federal Trade Commission guidelines.

Will a $5 'Just Looking' Fee Stop 'Showrooming'?

Many customers come into a store simply to check out the product in person before buying it online. It's called "showrooming," and many business owners have had enough. In fact, one store is charging customers a $5 fee for "just looking" as a way to discourage "showrooming."

In Brisbane, Australia, a specialty food store is imposing a $5 fee just for browsing the store's merchandise, reports Business Insider. But if customers purchase something from the store, the $5 will be deducted from the final purchase price.

Critics have ripped apart this store's strategy. But is there no other way to combat "showrooming"?

Qualified Small Biz Stock Gains May Be Tax-Free

What is qualified small business stock? If you're running a small business, you might want to take notice of this concept. Especially since in some cases, it's tax free.

First off, let's point out that qualified small business stock is a tax concept. It comes from the tax code (section 1202, to be exact).

The rule is this: If a taxpayer recognizes gain from the sale or exchange of "qualified small business (QSB) stock," then a huge portion of that gain may be excluded from the gross income of that taxpayer, for income tax purposes.

Sue as a Company, as Individual, or Both?

If you're a business owner and you want to sue over damages to your company, how should you file your lawsuit? Should you sue as a business, or as an individual?

That's a tricky question, and one that could potentially cost you your entire case. For example, a judge may throw out a case if the plaintiff bringing the suit has no standing to sue, or if the suit was filed in an improper jurisdiction.

Here are three factors you'll want to consider:

Girl Scout Cookie Policy at Work: Poor Taste?

It's Girl Scout cookie time, and you have no doubt seen the treats being sold outside local grocery stores, on street corners, and even in the workplace. So should you have a Girl Scout cookie policy at work?

Forbidding sales altogether may seem drastic, or in poor taste. But the reality is that this type of activity may be unwanted in the workplace, and could even hurt your business.

Here's a look at three reasons you may want to enact a policy to restrict Girl Scout cookie sales at work:

Top 5 Reasons Small Businesses Must Go Mobile

There's a lot of money to be made via mobile devices, and small businesses need to embrace the trend to remain competitive.

Owning and operating a small business is extremely difficult, and the failure rate is very high. But by embracing the mobile-technology trend, you can increase your company's chances for success.

Here are the Top 5 reasons your company must go mobile:

How to Handle a Product Recall

If you're in the retail business and a product that you sell has suddenly been recalled, you need to act fast and think on your feet.

Failure to act promptly and wisely could subject you to liability. And you don't want to be one of the parties named in an injured customer's product liability lawsuit.

So how should you react to news that a product you sell has been flagged for recall? Here are five steps you'll want to take:

3 Things to Know About Employee Contracts

Employment contracts may seem boilerplate, leading you to think that all employment contracts look the same. But if you're offering an employment contract to a new employee, you'll want to do more than just pull up a free template off the Internet.

Not all employment contracts are equal. While using standard templates may save on legal costs, it also helps to have an attorney to look over your contracts, especially if you drafted them yourself.

Here are three things business owners need to know about employment contracts:

FTC Issues New Guidelines for Online Ads

The Federal Trade Commission has released new guidelines about e-commerce and online advertising disclosures. Small business owners will want to pay close attention.

The new guidelines take the FTC's "Dot Com Disclosures" pamphlet, originally issued in 2000, and kicks it up a notch. The revamped and renamed ".com Disclosures" guide accounts for changes in technology, including the increasing use of smartphones in the online marketplace.

The guidelines aim to push consumer awareness and protection. In general, advertisements should not be unfair and deceptive. They should also not be misleading. Advertisers must always have evidence to back up any claim they are making in the advertisement.

How Do Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights Differ?

What's the difference between a patent, a trademark and a copyright?

If you're new to the concepts and ideas in intellectual property law, they all may seem like the same thing to you.

But there are some differences to each one. And knowing which one you need can make all the difference.

4 Tips for Writing a Good SaaS Agreement

With cloud storage becoming increasingly popular for businesses, many small new SaaS companies are popping up. But some people are setting up low-budget SaaS companies online, without fully addressing the legal issues involved.

Drafting an SaaS agreement can be tricky, since it's a complex agreement. But if your startup doesn't have the funds to hire a lawyer, you'd better be smart about how you draft one of these contracts.

Let's start at the very beginning: What is an SaaS?

Do You Need a March Madness Policy at Work?

March Madness is set to begin. So is it time you consider adding a March Madness policy at work?

While the general public may know March Madness as an exciting basketball tournament filled with upsets and drama, business owners may associate March Madness with a huge drain on work productivity, lost hours, and distracted workers.

March Madness can be particularly distracting early on, when games begin in the middle of the workday and continue through the night. Here are some reasons to consider adding a March Madness policy at work, as reported by The Wichita Eagle:

C or S Corporation: What's the Legal Difference?

You may have heard your accountant talk about it: What's the difference between an S Corporation and a C Corporation?

And more importantly, why does this difference even matter?

Let's take some time to talk about the key differences between the two, while briefly explaining the whole idea of entity choice.

Cloud Storage for Small Business: 3 Legal Risks

Nearly 90% of small businesses report they are now turning to cloud and Internet-based services to help them save money and grow their business.

Instead of spending money on things like software and servers, these businesses are turning over their infrastructure and storage needs to the cloud, reports Time.

But while cloud computing and cloud storage certainly offers its benefits, there are also potential drawbacks. For example, with a physical server in your building, you can monitor it and take security measures. But who's protecting your important data in the cloud?

NYC Law OKs Jobless-Discrimination Lawsuits

New York City will soon join the growing list of places where jobless and unemployment discrimination is illegal.

Over a mayoral veto, city lawmakers passed the nation's toughest law prohibiting discrimination against out-of-work job seekers. NYC's jobless-discrimination law is the first to allow applicants to sue employers for damages over a rejection based on their unemployed status, The Associated Press reports.

Unemployed status will join legally protected characteristics like race and sex as factors a prospective employer cannot consider in New York City. So what does this mean for employers?

'Onboarding' New Workers: 3 Tips After Hiring

One of the most overlooked areas of hiring is how you should manage an employee's first few days. So you may want to pay attention to some "onboarding" tips.

There are many articles written about interviewing and choosing the best candidates. But many employers are completely unprepared for how to manage their newly assembled "dream team" once they start working for them, reports The New York Times.

The first few days (or even hours) on the job are critical for your new hires. Here are some tips to get new workers up to speed without wasting their time -- or yours:

5 Tips for Employee Harassment Investigations

When an employee steps forward to complain about harassment, you'd better take that complaint seriously.

If you don't, you could find yourself in a tight spot, legally speaking.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, workplace discrimination and harassment are prohibited. Employers are urged to take swift action to respond to these complaints.

Preventing Employee Turnover: Why Workers Quit

You may already be dealing with the problem of preventing employee turnover. What can you do to stop it?

Even with the job market still struggling, more than 2 million Americans are voluntarily quitting their jobs every month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That translates into big headaches for business owners, who have to recruit and train replacements for these workers.

So why are employees voluntarily quitting, and what can you do about it? Here's a look five reasons, as reported by Forbes:

Top 5 Last-Minute Tax Tips for Businesses

As a business owner, you probably have a lot on your plate. Tax filing is just another one of those items, and there’s only about a month to go before the April 15 filing deadline.

If you haven’t already talked to your accountant or tax lawyer, you’d better get cracking on that. You have many reporting obligations and chances are that as a business owner, you’ll be itemizing your deductions. So that being said, you don’t want to be sloppy.

If you don’t think you’re going to make the Tax Day deadline, here are some tips on tax filing for procrastinators:

Careful: Posting Flyers May Not Fly With the Law

Flyers seem like an innocent and easy way to get some extra buzz around your business or advertise your new promotion. But don’t do it without taking some time to think first.

How many flyers for a company would you want to see if it wasn’t your business? And more importantly, is it even legal to distribute them?

There aren’t any hard and fast rules when it comes to hanging up flyers and notices around town. Few states have laws on the topic, and banning them entirely would cause some First Amendment problems. But many cities do have restrictions on flyers, and for good reason.

Like Facebook, Do You Need a Website 'Facelift'?

Facebook is unveiling a website "facelift," aiming for a sleeker user interface. Your company may not be like Facebook at all, but this is one strategy that may be worth copying.

Facebook's goal is to make its News Feed -- the site's equivalent of a home page -- more engaging for users. It will also be a plus for advertisers, something Facebook is likely hoping will increase revenue.

If your business' website is a source of direct sales, it's definitely important to keep it up to date. But even if your income comes from other sources, a website "facelift" for your business can be key to improving your bottom line.

The UCC and Retail: How the Law Applies

Retail businesses, or really any companies that engage in the buying or selling of commercial goods, are subject to a piece of law called the UCC. If you've never heard of it before, now is the time to keep reading.

While state legal systems don't differ too dramatically, when it comes to details there are often surprises if you're not familiar with a state's legal codes.

The UCC, or Uniform Commercial Code, aimed to solve that by standardizing the laws regarding the sale of goods across the country. So does the UCC apply to you?

5 Tips to Protect Yourself From a Bad Hire

Hiring the right employee is an inexact science. After all, a person who seems like your "dream candidate" during an interview may turn out to be a nightmare once he is actually working. As a result, you may need some tips from successful entrepreneurs who've successfully found their dream employees.

For a small company, hiring the wrong worker can be especially damaging. You not only waste your money paying an employee who is a bad fit, but you also waste your time by training someone who may contribute very little to your company.

That's why it's especially important for small business owners to critically evaluate their applicants. Here are five tips to protect yourself from a bad hire, as told by entrepreneurs to the Financial Post:

Breastfeeding at Work: What Employers Need to Know

Breastfeeding at work can be a sensitive issue. What do employers need to know?

For example, should you be concerned if an employee asks you for a place where she can pump breast milk? When we say "concerned," we're referring to the potential of legal action brought by the employee.

While it's generally not wise for an employer to ignore a breastfeeding mother's request to pump milk on the job, the laws on this issue aren't always as clear cut.

SBA Loan Process May Soon Be Easier

Small business owners rejoice: It looks like getting a loan from the Small Business Administration may soon be within anyone's reach.

The SBA offers loans to small business owners as an alternative to bank loans and other financing options. But landing one of those loans required a lot of paperwork, and not everyone could qualify.

At least, that was the case before Karen Mills, the outgoing SBA chief, broke the news on changes to the program, the Jacksonville Business Journal reports. And it's all good news.

Here's what's being proposed:

The 5 Best Cities for Women Entrepreneurs

Last year's election shed some light on women in the workforce. One area where women are grossly underrepresented is in entrepreneurship.

There are several lists out, detailing the top cities for female entrepreneurs. The finance website NerdWallet has its own list, while Forbes has a different list, calling into question some of the methodology used by NerdWallet -- for example, New York City didn't make the NerdWallet list.

What are some factors to consider when talking about the right climate for building women-owned businesses?

Square Gets Cease and Desist Order in Illinois

Square has become ubiquitous in many cities as an easy and inexpensive way for businesses to process credit card payments. But in Illinois, the company has received a cease and desist order that could endanger their success in that state.

The notice alleges that Square is violating the Illinois' Transmitters of Money Act. The law requires businesses that buy or sell "payment instruments" or transmit money to get a state license.

If Square's plan is to argue the law doesn't apply, their previous actions could make that hard to justify.

H-1B Visa Application Window Opening in April

If your business is looking to take on foreign workers, you may want to hurry. The H-1B visa application process isn't easy, and there are only a limited supply of these visas going around.

These visas are available for businesses that want to hire foreign workers, as Forbes reminds us. They're available to workers with special skills and from certain professions. Typically, these visas will be available to teachers, scientists, and those in computer-related fields.

Is Budweiser Lawsuit About More Than Alcohol?

Beer drinkers have filed a lawsuit against none other than the "king of beers," Budweiser and its parent company Anheuser-Busch.

The claim? Drinkers are accusing the company of watering down beers like Budweiser and Michelob and mislabeling the bottles. Consumers think the bottles contain less than the 5% or less alcohol by volume listed on most beer labels.

To back up their claims, plaintiffs say former employees at the brewery have provided information indicating that beers were watered down. But does that warrant legal action?