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September 2013 Archives

Under Obamacare, 7 Options for Small Businesses

Small business owners: Do you know what are your options are under Obamacare?

With open enrollment set to begin October 1, you should. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, will usher in many changes for both individuals and small businesses alike.

Your business may be affected depending on the number of full-time employees (those who work at least 30 hours a week) you have. With that said, here are seven potential options for small business owners to consider:

Can Your Business Get an Obamacare Tax Credit?

Some small businesses may be eligible for tax credits under Obamacare for providing health insurance to their employees, depending on the size of the company and a few other factors.

Businesses with 50 full-time employees or more will be required in 2015 to provide their employees with a minimum level of health insurance.

What if your business has fewer than 50 full-time workers? Then you can choose whether or not to offer health coverage; if you do, then it's possible you may even qualify for a tax break.

Is your small business eligible for Obamacare tax credits?

iPad POS Systems Touch On a Few Legal Concerns

iPad POS systems may be replacing older, wired models in restaurants and retail businesses, leaving business owners to consider jumping on the mobile payment management train.

According to Forbes, some of these iPad Point of Sale (POS) devices have even been tested in college football stadiums, able to handle more than 5,000 transactions in a matter of hours.

With benefits like these, are there any legal risks to using iPad POS systems?

What Are Obamacare's Penalties for Small Businesses?

There are some potential Obamacare penalties that small businesses should know about. Under the Affordable Care Act, small businesses have a laundry list of chores that they'll need to check off in order to be compliant with the new law.

First, there's the requirement to mail "Obamacare letters" notifying all employees about the health insurance marketplaces by October 1. Failure to do so, however, will not result in a fine or penalty, according to the Small Business Administration.

But for small businesses with at least 50 full-time employees, failure to offer health insurance to those workers by 2015 does come with potential penalties under Obamacare. Here's a general overview of what small business owners need to know:

Tattoo Policies at Work: 5 Tips for Employers

Do you have a tattoo policy at work? While many workplaces don't care so much about employee appearances, others are so stringent that they'll even implement a no-tattoo policy.

The U.S. Army, for example, is set to enforce new rules prohibiting tattoos on soldiers' necks, forearms, and lower legs. The Army will also require soldiers to get racist and sexist tattoos removed, Stars and Stripes reports.

However, your small business is not the same as the Army. If you're thinking about creating a tattoo policy at your workplace, you'll want to keep it legal. Here are five tips for employers to keep in mind:

Obamacare Exchanges Are for Business Owners Too

Obamacare's online Marketplaces, also known as Health Insurance Exchanges, are gearing up to provide both individuals and many small business owners with a place to shop for insurance coverage.

As you probably know, the smallest of small-business employers -- those with 50 or fewer full-time employees -- are not required to offer health coverage to workers under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).

However, business owners may shop for health coverage in the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace.

Agents and Contracts: 5 Legal Considerations

Businesses often use agents to enter into contracts on matters both mundane and important -- even matters that can make or break a fledgling company.

When one of these agreements goes sour, a small business may be left on the hook for the slip-up of an employee who was vested with the power to enter into an agreement on the company's behalf.

Still, small business owners must delegate responsibilities to succeed. So here are five legal considerations when dealing with agents and contracts:

Obamacare for Small Businesses: A Basic Checklist

When it comes to Obamacare, small business owners may need a checklist, as some very important deadlines are approaching.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as "Obamacare," includes several requirements for businesses. You probably know that the so-called "employer mandate" has been pushed back to 2015. But most businesses are still required to notify their current and future employees about the new health insurance exchanges under Obamacare.

Here's a basic checklist to help you knock off these two hard deadlines:

'Tis the Season to Make Holiday Hiring Plans

Fall has just begun, but holiday hiring plans are already in full swing. The Orlando Sentinel reports Walmart will hire roughly 55,000 seasonal employees for the holidays this year; Target plans to hire about 70,000 employees this holiday season, down from the 80,000 it hired last year, according to the Star Tribune.

As you get your holiday hiring plans in order, 'tis the season to keep these legal reminders in mind about hiring seasonal employees:

19 Firms Fined $350K for Fake Online Reviews

Nineteen firms that posted fake online reviews to enhance other companies' reputations on sites like Google and Yelp have agreed to pay $350,000 in fines. Let this be yet another lesson in how posting fake reviews can have costly consequences.

The fines are the result of a year-long investigation by the New York Attorney General's office. Investigators posed as business owners looking to drum up some fake good reviews; the firms offered to post rave reviews for as little as $1 each. Often, these fake reviewers lived overseas in places like Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Eastern Europe.

The 19 companies have agreed to pay penalties and cease their misleading practices. Had they not agreed to the fines, they could have faced even more significant legal action.

War on 'Wardrobing': Should You Follow Suit?

"Wardrobing" is a consumer return scheme that cost the retail industry about $8.8 billion in 2012. But Bloomingdale's has a plan to stop the hemorrhaging over hemlines.

According to The Businesss of Fashion website, the department store giant has a new tactic to curb shoppers who buy, try on, and then return clothing items: refusing to accept items without a black tag.

Should your retail business take up this security trend?

DQ Manager's Kindness to Blind Man Goes Viral

A young Dairy Queen manager's heart of gold is making headlines. Nineteen-year-old Joey Prusak of Hopkins, Minnesota (otherwise known as The Nicest Guy Ever), confronted a customer who sneakily pocketed a $20 bill that a blind man had dropped.

When the customer refused to give the money back, Prusak kicked her out and gave the blind man $20 of his own money.

News of the sweet deed went viral after an email praising Prusak -- written by a customer who witnessed the incident -- wound up on Reddit. But what should a business do when there's no Prusak to save the day?

Cost of a Small Business Cyberattack: $9K

Even a single cyberattack can cost a small business a lot more than you may think. The average cost of one cyberattack totals about $8,669.48, the National Small Business Association (NSBA) reports.

The NSBA also found that 94 percent of small business owners are worried about cybersecurity, while almost half of small businesses, 44 percent, have already fallen victim to a cyberattack.

What else does this survey tell us when it comes to cyberattacks?

Top 3 Tips for a Business 'Twitter Party'

A Twitter party can be a fun and effective way to boost your business and build an audience. But before you throw a fete for followers, make sure it's in compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines.

Here are the top three legal tips for a business Twitter party:

Should Your Registered Agent Be a Third Party?

Should your registered agent be a third party?

First of all, what is a registered agent? It is the individual who is designated to accept legal documents served against your company when you're involved in a legal action. The registered agent for a small business can be an employee of the company -- or a third party, which is sometimes preferred. Usually, a third party registered agent is the business' lawyer or a separate service company.

All incorporated businesses need to have a registered agent. If you are considering hiring a third party to do this for you, here are some pros and cons to consider:

Top 5 Tips for Workplace Gun Policies

A workplace gun policy at your small business may give your employees a sense of safety and security, not to mention potentially deterring gun mishaps at work.

But in some states, employers may be more or less handicapped by how much they can regulate their employees' possession of guns on company property.

Keeping these considerations in mind, here are five tips for employers considering a workplace gun policy:

Why Are Small Business Cyberattacks On the Rise?

If you think small businesses are immune to cyberattacks, think again. From poor password protection to stale antivirus software, it's simple errors that are costing businesses big-time.

Recent reports show that the majority of corporate data breaches target companies with fewer than 100 employees. Why? Naivety and unpreparedness, one security expert tells Forbes. Fortunately, businesses need only make minor adjustments to thwart a host of online security risks.

Here are a few common cyber security risks and simple precautions every business owner should keep in mind:

Top Small Business Scams Revealed by FTC, BBB

Thousands of small business owners fall victim to scams every year. How can you stay ahead of the curve and protect your pocketbook?

In an effort to help business owners recognize potential threats, the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection recently highlighted some of the top small business scams that are out there today.

Here are five scams every small business owner should beware:

5 Advantages to Hiring Workers Over 50

Are there advantages to hiring older workers? Many businesses are finding that there are. Around 200 employers including Google and AT&T have signed an AARP pledge to recognize the value of older employees and to consider applicants over 50, The Associated Press reports.

In this day and age, many business owners try to steer clear of hiring workers over 50. This is often due to stereotypes that older employees are slower, don't understand new technology, and just lack energy in general. However, these perceptions couldn't be further from the truth.

Many employers are finding that older workers bring many benefits to a job that young workers may lack. Here are five advantages to hiring workers over 50:

$200K Tip for Bartender Sounds Like a Scam

Sorry to dash your balla-guardian-angel dreams, but the St. Louis bartender who received a jaw-dropping $200,000 tip was probably the victim of a scam.

Two sisters walked into a bar and imbibed more than $100 in drinks. One of the sisters footed the bill and left the bartender an ever-so-modest $200,000 tip. The flabbergasted bartender posted a photo of the tip on Reddit which (understandably) went completely viral, reports The Huffington Post.

Sound a little too good to be true? (Spoiler alert: It is.)

Home Depot Sued Over Alleged Shoplifter Shakedowns

A class-action lawsuit against Home Depot claims the retailer used its policies to bully innocent customers wrongly accused of shoplifting.

Plaintiff Jimin Chen alleges that while shopping at a Home Depot in San Leandro, California, he was accused of shoplifting because of an employee's failure to ring up two items, reports ABC News. The accusation led to Chen and his friend being detained by Home Depot security officers, and later, a letter from Home Depot's lawyers demanding $350 to avoid being sued.

Should your business adopt Home Depot's strong-arm tactics?

Yelp Lawsuit Lesson: Fake Reviews Can Be Costly

A recent Yelp lawsuit is a reminder to business owners that writing fake Yelp reviews to boost your reputation can come back to haunt you in court.

Yelp has sued McMillan Law Group -- a San Diego bankruptcy law firm that allegedly posted fake reviews -- for breach of contract, unfair competition and false advertising.

Though firm owner Julian McMillan is claiming Yelp filed the lawsuit out of spite, business owners should err on the side of caution and never post fake reviews on Yelp.

NYC Strippers Aren't Contractors, Judge Rules

A New York judge has ruled that strippers at the upscale Manhattan club Rick's Cabaret are entitled to at least minimum wage because they're employees, not independent contractors.

The ruling jibes with a growing trend of U.S. courts recognizing exotic dancers as employees who are entitled to a host of labor law protections.

So why did the judge classify the dancers in this case as employees rather than contractors?

5 Legal Tips If You're Offering Free Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi is slowly becoming like tap water: If your business doesn't want to offer Wi-Fi for free, your customers may see your company as a stingy, anti-technological cretin.

This may be one reason why more and more small businesses are offering free Wi-Fi. In addition to boosting customer good will, gratuitous Wi-Fi acts as a valuable amenity to customer service-based ventures, reports Bank of America's Small Business Community Blog.

But offering anything new, even something for free, comes with its legal nuances. Here are five tips for entrepreneurs thinking about offering free Wi-Fi:

Don't Forget: 'Obamacare Letters' Due Oct. 1

Small business owners, listen up: Don't forget that your so-called "Obamacare letters" must be mailed to employees by October 1.

While small businesses with fewer than 50 full-time employees are generally not required to offer employee health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, the "Obamacare letter" requirement still applies to almost all companies.

If your business falls under the Fair Labor Standards Act, then you are required to notify your employees about the Affordable Care Act's health-care exchanges, Fox News reports.

What does this letter need to say? Here's a breakdown:

3 Ways Office Sports Teams Can Get You Sued

An office sports team is a great way to build a healthier workforce, promote camaraderie -- and potentially get you, the small business owner, sued.

As an employer, you should be concerned about incurring liability if anyone gets hurt while playing sports -- be it during a casual lunchtime game of soccer or on an official office-sponsored softball team.

Here are three ways an office sports team can get you sued:

Relocating Your Business? Top 5 Legal Tips

Are you relocating your business, or thinking about it? If so, then you're going to need a few legal tips before you make your move.

There are many reasons why small business owners make the decision to move. Maybe you're looking to expand, or maybe it's simply because your lease has expired and you've found a nicer space in a more ideal location.

Whatever your reasons may be, you'll want to keep this legal checklist handy before you relocate your business. Here are the five practical tips you'll want to consider:

Can Employers Search Workers' Cell Phones?

Is it legal for an employer to search an employee's cell phone? Many employees don't realize that while they are at work, their privacy rights may be limited when it comes to digital data.

For example, employers can legally monitor employee email communications under certain conditions (such as in response to another employee's harassment complaint), if the employee is using a company-owned device (like a company-issued laptop).

So are employers allowed to search their employees' cell phones? It depends. Here's a general overview:

IRS to Tax 'Automatic Tips' as Regular Wages

According to the IRS, "automatic tips" will be classified as service charges instead of tips beginning in January 2014. This means they will be treated as regular non-tip wages for tax purposes, The Wall Street Journal explains.

"Automatic tips" are pre-calculated gratuities, typically added to restaurant bills for large groups. Currently, "automatic tips" are still considered tips, meaning it's up to the tipped servers to report them as income.

But those days are numbered. Here's what you need to know about the IRS ruling:

Small Business Borrowing Highest Since 2007

Small business borrowing is at the highest it's been in six years, according to the Thomson Reuters/PayNet Small Business Lending Index. This suggests "[t]here is some optimism returning to small businesses," which "are responding to some demand," PayNet's president tells Reuters.

The index, which measures the volume of financing to small companies, rose 11 percent in July. The level has not been this high since August 2007.

With that said, here are some general tips to consider for small business owners who are looking for financing:

Do You Need a Business Credit Card?

Do you need a business credit card? If you're a small business owner, having a credit card that's separate from your personal credit card can pay off in many ways.

For example, a business credit card allows your business to establish creditworthiness, which can help secure financing, the Small Business Administration explains. It's also a way to prevent your personal and business debts from commingling.

However, there are still a few potential drawbacks. Here are some general considerations to keep in mind when deciding if you need a business credit card or not:

As Podcasts Increase, So Do Legal Issues

These days, it seems podcasts are making a sure and steady comeback. But, with the resurrection comes the legal issues coupled with it. Despite the fact that podcasts were a fad long before social media hit the scene, they're now a market force once again, reports Time.

Why is that?

Podcasts are a versatile medium that fit perfectly into the social media boom. Large and small businesses alike can make podcasts that listeners can download onto their smartphones, or through iTunes or to play on Facebook or Twitter. Because of these uses, and many more, podcasts remain popular and relevant. But, beware. Because as podcasts increase, so do potential legal issues. Here are some to look out for.

1 in 5 Employers Prefer Contractors: Survey

A new survey shows that nearly one in five employers prefer to hire independent contractors, citing rising costs of employee benefits and the Affordable Care Act as key factors.

The SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard survey for August 2013 found that almost 20% of small businesses are more likely to hire a contractor than a full-time employee, reports Inc.com.

Should your business follow suit when faced with its next hiring decision?

Should Employers Post Jobs on LinkedIn?

Should employers post jobs on LinkedIn? We all know LinkedIn as one of the prime social media sites for networking and job marketing, but it has never really promoted itself as a traditional job board -- until now, that is.

But not so fast.

According to Forbes, LinkedIn's newest premium membership plans for prospective employees may cross an ethical line. The "Job Seeker Premium" membership is sold to those looking for work, for $29.95 a month, no less, and also guarantees that when you apply for jobs posted on LinkedIn, the candidate's "premium" application will magically move to the top of the employer's pile, regardless of the candidate's qualifications.

With that said, should employers still consider posting jobs on LinkedIn?

Optimism on the Decline: 5 Tips for Unsure Times

A new study of small businesses in the U.S. and Europe has found that fewer and fewer entrepreneurs are optimistic about their success in the coming year.

Insurer Hiscox Ltd. reported that 38% of business owners felt optimistic about the next year, a sharp decline from last year's near half of small business owners who felt confident in their futures, reports Bloomberg.

With confidence dropping, the market is bound to be affected, so here are five tips to shore up your business in uncertain economic conditions.