Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

May 2014 Archives

Texas Restaurant Tells Gay Couple Not to Come Back

After settling their bill for breakfast at a Texas restaurant, a gay couple said the waitress decided to give them a tip of her own.

"We don't serve f--s here," the waitress told the couple, reports KRLD NewsRadio, before telling them never to return.

Can a business refuse to serve gay people?

Chicago to Propose $15 Per Hour Minimum Wage Hike

Chicago has joined a handful of cities in proposing to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

A group of aldermen in the Windy City have put forward a plan to raise the city's minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to $15 an hour, reports Reuters. This plan is separate from Mayor Rahm Emanuel's panel which has been tasked with providing recommendations for raising minimum wage.

What does this minimum wage proposal mean for Chicago employers?

Is It Legal to Require Foreign Language Skills for a Job?

If your company deals internationally or serves a large non-English speaking clientele, you may be considering requiring your employees to speak both English and another language.

But is requiring foreign language for a job a form of discrimination?

The answer is: it depends.

Square Capital Offers New Small Biz Funding: Is It Time to Square Up?

Square, the mobile payment company used by many small businesses to process credit card transactions, is looking to help out small businesses in an entirely new way.

The San Francisco company has launched Square Capital, which will advance cash to small businesses who need it.

There's a catch, however.

Is It Legal to Charge a Fee for Using Credit Cards?

Businesses often charge a fee for using credit cards, and although consumers may hate it, the practice is legal.

The cost of making most transactions via credit card (interchange fees) can add up, and businesses can legally pass those costs on to the consumer via a credit card surcharge. But you need to be careful about how that fee is added.

So how can your business legally charge customers for using credit cards?

Candy, Snack Companies Want Names Off E-Cigs

Electronic cigarettes are getting some serious attention, and not just from smokers.

The holders of trademarks for iconic brands like Tootsie Rolls and Girl Scout cookies are pressuring the makers of e-cig liquid to stop using their names on flavored nicotine labels.

Why aren't these candy and cookie makers sweet on the smoking-hot e-cig market?

Is It Legal to Serve Food Without a Health Inspection?

If your small business serves food without a health inspection, what can happen?

Health inspection laws are intended to prevent businesses from serving food in unsafe or unsanitary conditions, but there may be some circumstances where an inspection sticker isn't necessary.

So when is it legal to serve food without a health inspection?

Improve Your Office Culture Without Getting Sued: 3 Legal Tips

A healthy office culture is often difficult to create, but it is becoming a deciding factor in locking down those high-value hires.

Employers may spend time and money trying to impress employees that they're the "fun" company -- the one which works hard and plays hard -- but many of these strategies have legal issues.

Instead of convincing potential hires that your office is cool, try these three simple tips to improve your office culture without getting sued:

5 Clauses to Include in Summer Employment Contracts

Summer is here, and business own should be polishing their employment contracts for seasonal hires.

Here are the five must-have clauses for any summer employment contract:

It's Nat'l Waiters and Waitresses Day: 3 Tips for Bosses

Attention bar and restaurant owners: Today is National Waiters and Waitresses Day. So you may want to send your staff an e-mail or speak with them individually and let them know how much you appreciate their hard work.

And while we're on the subject, today might also be a good day to brush up on your knowledge of employee rights, not just for waiters and waitresses, but for everyone on your staff.

Here are three employment-law tips that are definitely worth remembering:

Trademarks Can't Disparage, Court Tells Anti-'Islamization' Group

Trademarking your business' slogan may be easier than you'd think -- unless it could be interpreted as disparaging an entire group of people.

The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals last week upheld the denial of a trademark to blogger Pamela Geller, who sought to trademark the phrase "Stop the Islamization of America" for her group of the same name and her almost-but-not-quite-the-same-name website, "Stop! Islamization of America."

Why can't Geller trademark her slogan?

Which Debts Can Be Discharged in a Business Bankruptcy?

If your business is falling hopelessly behind on paying its bills, filing for bankruptcy may be the best option for getting rid of your business' debts.

But which debts are discharged in a bankruptcy? And maybe more importantly, which debts aren't?

3 Reasons Small Businesses Should Care About Net Neutrality

Your small business should be paying attention to proposed net neutrality changes, because they may end up crippling your online presence.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted Thursday to put forward new rules governing net neutrality, including the possibility of companies paying for faster access to consumers.

Take a more proactive stance towards net neutrality and your business for these three reasons:

Texas Strip Clubs Lose 'Pole Tax' Challenge

Texas strip clubs may soon get a little more expensive.

A so-called "pole tax" on Texas nudie bars was upheld last week by Texas' Third Court of Appeals. The strip clubs had challenged the $5-per-patron fee as an unconstitutional occupation tax in the latest legal challenge since the law was passed in 2007.

What was the legal thrust behind the clubs' latest challenge? And where does this leave Texas' "live nude entertainment" industry?

Do You Qualify as a 'Minority-Owned Business'?

Minority-owned businesses may be entitled to government benefits and special programs, but not every business will qualify.

And claiming to be a minority-owned business when you’re not is a terrible idea, as Moretech American Corporation has learned the hard way. Federal prosecutors allege Moretech passed off a shell company as a minority-owned firm in order to land a government contract; Moretech has agreed to pay $3 million to settle those claims, the New York Daily News reports.

So what exactly qualifies a business as a minority-owned business?

Nat'l Small Business Week: 5 Legal Facts You Should Know

It's National Small Business Week, a time to recognize the importance of America's 28 million small businesses.

Events sponsored by the Small Business Administration span from San Francisco to Boston and Washington, D.C., ending with the announcement of the National Small Business of the Year.

Wonder if that could be you? Consider your odds -- and these five legal facts about National Small Business Week that you may not have known:

Businesses and Armed Robberies: 10 Tips From Police

It's National Police Week in the United States. And though no business owner ever wants to have to call the police because they've been a victim of a crime -- especially a crime as serious as armed robbery -- it's a good idea to know what do if you are.

As a few recent incidents have shown, some business owners and employees choose to take matters into their own hands when confronted by armed robbers. But that's typically not what law-enforcement experts recommend.

Here are 10 tips for what you should do during and after an armed robbery, as suggested by police departments across America:

Colo.'s Pot Banking Plan: 5 Facts for Marijuana Businesses

Colorado unveiled the world's first legal pot banking system on Wednesday, allowing marijuana businesses to move away from a cash-only model.

The pot bank bill, HB 1398, approved by Colorado legislators would allow pot businesses to join "cannabis credit co-ops" as a way to handle their money. The Associated Press reports that Gov. John Hickenlooper supports the bill and is expected to sign it.

Here are five key legal facts about Colorado's pot banking bill:

Using Ride-Sharing Apps Like UberX for Deliveries: Risky Business?

Small business owners may already use ride-sharing apps instead of taxicabs to travel from place to place. But should your company use such apps for deliveries or for other business purposes?

MELT Pizza, a restaurant in Melbourne, Australia, plans to use Uber's ride-sharing service UberX to deliver woodfired pizzas to hungry customers. Dynamic Business reports that customers will get free delivery if they live within 3 kilometers of the store and spend more than $35.

But is using Uber for deliveries, or any other commercial purpose, legally risky?

'Tis the Season to Prepare for Summer Job Seekers

For many small business owners, summer brings an increase in business and with it the need to prepare for hiring summer workers.

With summer just around the corner, there are several things you can do to prepare for this influx of seasonal workers and avoid any potential legal mishaps along the way. Here are five tips to get you started:

If an Employee Is Injured, What Should a Business Do?

Employee injuries can create more work for a small business owner, but you don't have to let them become a liability.

Even if your business is a corporate office, consider following these steps when an employee is injured on the job:

When a CEO Steps Down: Next Steps for Your Business

CEOs can resign or be removed like any other employee, yet your business needs a plan if its leadership is going to step down.

Just today, Reuters reports that Target removed CEO Gregg Steinhafel after massive data breaches during the holiday season made headlines. While Target is many times larger than your small business, a CEO's departure can raise similar issues.

When the head of your business is gone, here are some simple but necessary next steps for your company:

Kickstarter for Small Businesses: 5 Legal Tips

Kickstarter can be a great way to get your small business on its feet, but it isn't a cure-all for your financial problems.

Avoid legal pitfalls with Kickstarter by following these five legal tips for your small business:

Is It Legal to Ban E-Cigarettes at Work?

Businesses are slowly catching up to e-cigarettes, with some of the largest employers barring them from the workplace.

Walmart, General Electric, Target, and Home Depot have all decided to "lump e-cigarettes in with traditional cigarettes" and prohibit their use in their offices and stores, reports Forbes.

Should your business follow suit and ban e-cigs at work? Here are a few points to consider: