Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

November 2014 Archives

1 in 3 Americans Shop Online at Work: FindLaw.com Survey

Employers may need to account for some extra online activity this holiday season: employees' furtive online shopping at work.

A new FindLaw.com survey has found that approximately one in three Americans admit to shopping online while on the clock -- and not just during the holidays. Many of those surveyed explained they simply didn't have time outside of work to do their shopping.

How can employers craft company policy to account for this online shopping trend?

Should Franchises Purchase Business Insurance?

Turning a successful business into a franchise is a great way to turn a good idea into a great company. But that success may also create the need for additional business insurance.

With the rise in lawsuits targeting chain businesses, insurers are now offering new types of business insurance for franchisers covering a variety of legal actions, reports Businessweek. This type of policy may cover everything from customer disputes with individual franchisees that turn into lawsuits against the owner of the franchise to employment disputes. And this is just the latest of many options for business owners when it comes to business insurance.

But the question remains: Should franchises purchase business insurance?

Can You Ask Potential Hires About Medical History?

Your business may wish to hire employees who are well suited to a physically demanding task. This may make you wonder if your applicants are healthy enough to perform these tasks -- so much so you would like to ask about their medical history.

Amsted Rail Co., Inc. and Amsted Industries, Inc. had similar concerns about its applicants having carpal tunnel syndrome, so it performed tests and asked about potential hires' history with carpal tunnel. Now the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is suing Amsted for violating the ADA with its hiring practices.

Can employers ask potential hires about their medical histories?

3 Lessons for SMBs From Black Friday Lawsuits

The specter of a Black Friday lawsuit can certainly cast a pall over what should be one of the biggest days of the year for many SMB retailers.

Fortunately retailers can certainly take precautions to keep shoppers safe and prevent the injuries or other incidents that have led to past Black Friday lawsuits

What can business owners learn from these previous Black Friday lawsuits? Here are three lessons:

Top 5 Legal Tips for Small Businesses on Instagram

By now, your business likely has some form of social media presence, whether on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or possibly all of the above.

But what about Instagram? This mobile photo- and video-sharing network is becoming an increasingly powerful way for businesses to market their products and services, reports The Associated Press. What should business owners considering or already using Instagram to market their businesses be aware of?

Here are five legal tips for small business owners on Instagram:

After a Cyberattack: 3 Simple Ways SMBs Can Re-Establish Security

When hackers compromise your business' systems, you may want to bring every cyber-facet of your company on full lockdown.

That's certainly what the U.S. State Department recently did after it learned that cyberintruders had infiltrated an unclassified email network used by President Obama's close circle of aides. Your company may not have the resources that the federal government commands, but there are some hard lines you can draw to re-establish security after a cyberattack.

Here three all-or-nothing hacking remedies you may want to consider:

3 Ways to Protect Your Business in a Cold Snap

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, many business owners -- especially retail business owners swamped by holiday shoppers -- may have more important things to do than worry about than the weather.

But when cold weather hits, a little preventative maintenance and forethought can save you from an unwelcome holiday surprise, such as a flooded building or a personal injury lawsuit.

What can you do to (legally) protect your business during a cold snap? Here are three things to keep an eye on:

A Business Owner's Legal Guide to the Holidays

Like the song says, "It's the most wonderful time of the year."

For many business owners -- especially retailers -- the holidays are the busiest, and most important, time of the year. But even if your business doesn't pick up during the holiday season, you'll likely still have to handle many holiday-related issues, from employees taking time off to dealing with with icy sidewalks.

What are some of the important legal issues that business owners should be aware during the holiday season? Here are our Top 10:

Conde Nast Settles Intern Lawsuit for $5.8M

Conde Nast, the publisher of magazines such as Vogue, Wired, and The New Yorker, has agreed to a $5.8 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed by former interns.

The interns claimed the company made them perform work, but failed to pay at least the minimum wage as required by law. The settlement agreement covers about 7,500 interns; under the terms of the settlement, these interns -- some of whom last worked for Conde Nast in 2007 -- will receive between $700 and $1,900, Reuters reports.

What led to the lawsuit and subsequent settlement?

Do 'You Break It, You Buy It' Signs Have Any Legal Effect?

Business owners and casual shoppers may recognize the presence of "You Break It, You Buy It" signs in various retail businesses.

Small businesses have a good deal of leeway to define the legal terms of how customers may interact with them and their merchandise, but this isn't to say that companies can act like mini-warlords on their own property.

So what exactly is the legal effect of a "You Break It, You Buy It" warning, and how can your business employ such a policy?

5 Ways a 'Locker Room' Office Culture Can Get You Sued

Your business may have a casual and fun atmosphere, which may border at times on juvenile. But you should think twice about letting your workplace become like a locker room or frat house.

Not only is the image of a locker room not consistent with a professional (and clean-smelling) workspace, but it may encourage misconduct that could open your business to liability.

So before you join in on a light-hearted office prank, consider these five ways in which a "locker room" office culture can get your business sued:

Do Employers Have to 'Accommodate' Alcoholic Workers?

Your business may not welcome the idea of alcohol-abusing employees as part of your workforce, but are you legally required to get them treatment?

That's what former Telemundo Chicago anchor Edna Schmidt is claiming after she was allegedly fired for being drunk on the air. According to TMZ, Schmidt says she was fired for being sauced, despite those at Telemundo being aware of her alcohol problems. She's now suing under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Does your business have to give alcoholics treatment before giving them the boot?

'Darkhotel' Hack: A Warning for Businesses, Travelers

The recently revealed "Darkhotel" hack has been responsible for stealing data from U.S. corporate executives, all via hotel Wi-Fi.

Security research firm Kasperksy Lab reported Monday that "Darkhotel" used compromised hotel Wi-Fi networks to trick hotel guests into installing seemingly innocuous updates for standard software which are actually malware. From there, CNET reports, hackers can access the infected computers through a "backdoor" and access all kinds of sensitive and personal data.

How can you protect your business and employees from falling victim to something like "Darkhotel?"

Young Girls' Invention Gets Them Sued for $1M

A pair of young sisters was amazed when their nifty little invention -- a microfiber cleaning cloth that sticks to the back of a smartphone or tablet -- started picking up steam.

Called HypeWipes, the cloths were a hit at trade shows and amongst a growing number of customers. But that luck soon changed for 14-year-old Sophia Forino, her sister Marissa, and the girls' father Rocca Forino: A company which markets a product called Hype-Wipe filed a $1 million lawsuit against the Forinos claiming the girls' invention infringes on the trademark for the Hype-Wipe, reports WVIT-TV.

What can small business owners take away from this somewhat unfortunate intellectual property dust-up?

'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' Turns 50: 5 Tasty Legal Lessons

Roald Dahl's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" turned 50 this year, and business owners could learn a thing or two from how Willy Wonka runs his factory.

From a legal standpoint, Wonka's business is one giant lawsuit waiting to happen, and the whole thing is premised on inviting children into direct harm. But on top of being fictional, this business owner had some rather keen ways of keeping his business out of court.

Check out these five tasty legal lessons from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (both the book and the movie versions):

Video Shows Why Cops Don't Want You to Fight Armed Robbers

Video footage of a pizza restaurant manager wrestling with an armed robber over a bank bag filled with cash has led police to remind business owners and employees not to risk their lives resisting robbery attempts.

Jordan Raudenbush, the manager of Pizza Time in Lacey, Washington told KIRO-TV that he thought the robber who burst into the restaurant Saturday night demanding money was wielding a fake gun. However, when Raudenbush and the suspect -- who is suspected of robbing six pizza restaurants in the last month -- began to struggle, the gun fired, narrowly missing Raudenbush.

Raudenbush was uninjured, but police are warning that he could have very easily been injured or killed in the incident.

Is Your Business Required to Have a Defibrillator (AED)?

AEDs or Automated External Defibrillators are small portable devices that may be used when a customer or employee has a serious heart problem.

These small, lunch box-shaped devices can be used to save lives in emergency situations, and require a minimal amount of training to be used properly. The National Institute of Health states that rapid treatment of sudden cardiac arrest with an AED "can be lifesaving."

While these emergency devices may be available and incredibly comforting to have in private businesses, is there a legal requirement to have one in yours?

Nat'l Veterans Small Business Week: 7 Things to Know

This week is National Veterans Small Business Week, a week dedicated to recognizing and supporting veteran entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Those celebrating National Veterans Small Business Week include President Barack Obama. In a memo released Monday, President Obama noted, "Even after our service members hang up their uniforms, they keep shaping our country, applying their innovative and unique skills to form small businesses that define our communities and drive economic progress."

What are the facts behind National Veterans Small Business Week and veteran-owned businesses? Here are seven things you should know:

Employee Wellness Programs: 5 Legal Reminders

Measuring and ensuring employee wellness is a great way to ground a holistic approach to getting the most out of your workforce. But like any employer initiative, business owners should be careful that their good intentions don't become oppressive or illegal.

Honeywell International may have to confront this issue in court. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently sued Honeywell for penalizing employees who refuse to "undergo testing under its corporate wellness program," reports Reuters. This is the third company to be sued by the EEOC over its wellness program, despite encouragement for wellness programs in Obamacare.

Here are five reminders about keeping your wellness program healthy and legal: