Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

October 2015 Archives

Muslim Truckers Who Refused Booze Transport Win Religious Discrimination Suit

Refusing to provide reasonable accommodations to religious employees could cost bosses. Two Muslim truckers who refused to transport alcohol for religious reasons were vindicated by a jury this week. They won their religious discrimination claim and $240,000 in damages, The Washington Post reports.

The suit was brought in Illinois by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of the truckers. The EEOC argued that the company could easily have switched the driver's loads, as is the regular practice at Star Transport. The company conceded this point, which may be why the truckers' claim succeeded.

Creepy Economics: Making Money and Memories on Halloween

Holidays are often an opportunity for stores to make a little more. Retailers rely on Christmas, of course. But who is really making bank on Halloween?

Candy makers, costume shops, pumpkin farmers, and haunted house owners all have reason to rejoice at the end of every October. While kids are consuming all those trick-or-treat sweets on November 1, there will be a few grownups counting their loot too.

4 Tips on Being a Boss Who Fails Inspirationally

To err is human. Yet few leaders like to admit they do it. The winner takes all, allegedly. But losing provides invaluable lessons if you are big enough to face your failure.

Admitting mistakes will help you improve yourself and your work. It is also a great way to improve your leadership skills and employee engagement. When your workers know you value genuine growth, they will be more inclined to tell you and themselves the truth, too. And together, you can all evolve.

A year ago, few people outside the retail industry would even know what on-call scheduling is. Now, after a few high-profile lawsuits, big-name employers can't run from the practice fast enough.

The latest retailer to end on-call scheduling is J. Crew, after the Attorney General of New York announced this week that the company has agreed to "end on-call shifts nationwide and to provide one week of advance notice about schedules to employees." If your small business is still using on-call scheduling, is it time to stop?

Recruiting isn't just for the Nick Saban's and John Calipari's of the world. Small business owners can't always sit back and wait for qualified applicants to come to them. And one of the best ways to locate talent for your business is to get out onto local college campuses and find it.

Sure, you could throw up a few colorful flyers and a booth at a career fair. But tomorrow's graduates are looking at a whole lot more out of their career than just a job. Here are a few tips for recruiting on college campuses.

Apple Sued for iPhone Wi-Fi Assist Miss

Apple is being sued for Wi-Fi Assist, a feature that is less than helpful. Plaintiffs say Apple should not have left Wi-Fi Assist on as a default setting or should have made it more apparent that iOS9 users would incur added charges when it is turned on, Fortune reports.

Two plaintiffs filed suit on behalf of a class of users with data overage charges. They want Apple to reimburse iOS9 users who did not have unlimited data plans and got hit with big cell phone bills because of Wi-Fi Assist.

Should I Hire a Recruiter to Do My Hiring?

Finding the right people for your small business is a key to your success. But you also don't have any time. Is it worth your hard-earned money to hire a recruiter?

The answer, of course, depends on your precise needs. Here are some options to consider when you need to bring more people in but cannot make more time to find them yourself.

More and more people are their own boss these days. Startups, freelancing jobs, and the gig economy only make self-employment easier. What isn't so easy is navigating the legal implications of self-employment -- the tax, retirement, and health insurance implications of being out on your own.

So consider this your legal start kit for self-employment; it's like a list of must-read information for your "nano" business of one:

It doesn't matter if you're looking for a permanent employee, an independent contractor, or a freelancer -- chances are you're going to find your next hire on Craigslist. Potential hires love using it because it's free and easily searchable. And if the candidates are there, your small business needs to be there, too.

The classified ads website gets over 1 million new job listings every month, so here's how to make your ad stand out, and how to make sure you make the right Craigslist hire.

Tax Benefits for Businesses With Disabled Workers

Accommodating disability is not just the right thing to do -- it could earn you credit with the IRS. The tax authority has a few options for accommodations that may give you a break on business taxes.

Whether you incur expenses providing access or removing obstacles to accessibility, your business can qualify. But we are talking tax codes, so it's not super clear. Here are some basics.

Should Tipping Be Banned? -- Legal Considerations of Banning Gratuities

Service businesses are increasingly discussing the elimination of a tipping system. Many servers think it is unfair. Many customers would prefer if businesses handled employee pay independently and left them out of it altogether.

If you want to ban tipping in your business, will it cost you more than you can afford?

Why Hire a Lawyer for New Business Permits

Starting a small business is a big challenge. You are up for it and ready to be in charge. But you should still use an attorney to help you obtain permits and licenses.

Federal, state, and local licensing laws all vary widely and create competing obligations. Don't try to save a few bucks by handling that stuff on your own. Failing administratively can end up costing you a lot -- and "that stuff' is the law.

Walmart may have taken a stand against discriminatory legislation, but that message of acceptance hasn't trickled down to its entire staff. The retailer is being sued for harassing and firing a transgender employee, its third discrimination lawsuit in the past five months.

A former employee sued Walmart in July for denying health insurance her same-sex spouse, and in August six former employees sued for race and age discrimination. The latest lawsuit alleges that a manager harassed and then fired a transgender employee because of her gender identity.

JPEG Copyright Possibility Threatens Fair Use

The Joint Photographic Experts Group, better known as JPEG, this week launched a security initiative seeking copyright protections for images. This will make image sharing more secure. But it will also bolster intellectual property protections for image holders, and that is controversial.

Critics are disappointed. "So much for hopes that the tech industry would back away from copyright protection any time soon," wrote engadget. The concern is for all of us, really, because copyright for jpegs will block creation of much material made under "fair use" doctrine.

Consider TargetJP MorganSony, and Anthem Blue Cross. If these corporations can get hacked, so can your small business. So what can you do about it?

Obviously, prevention is key. But more and more businesses are also looking at post-hacking relief and finding it in the form of cybersecurity insurance. So is it time for your small business to get a cybersecurity insurance policy?

Most employers offer some health insurance coverage to their employees, and some extend it to their employees' spouses. And after the Supreme Court's ruling that same-sex couples have the fundamental right to marry, the pool of employee spouses just got larger.

So are your employee benefit plans up to date with the new law? Are employers required to offer benefits to same-sex spouses?

Pros and Cons of BBB Membership

The Better Business Bureau is a non-profit organization that makes hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Many people perceive it as a quasi-governmental agency. Some say it is a total scam.

Earlier this month, CNN Money reported that it reviewed the tax filings of 102 BBBs nationally and concluded that most of the $200 million annual revenue comes from the businesses it oversees. The report suggests that the BBB motto ("Start With Trust") is deceptive, selling accreditation to businesses and giving consumers the impression that it protects them when it does not.

Mandatory sabbaticals. Telecommuting from Southeast Asia. And now unlimited vacation time. Doesn't anyone work in an office these days?

Not only is the workplace becoming more flexible, but businesses are competing to offer their employees the best benefits. To that end, LinkedIn is now offering its employees unlimited vacation time. So how will the business function with everyone drinking Mai Tais on the beach? Well, there are some limits to the policy.

4 Tips to Get out of Your Commercial Lease

Ideally, you consider how to get out of a lease before you sign it. If that's not the case, and now you find yourself seeking release from your lease, here are some steps to take.

Remember, if you break your lease you are liable for the time that the space remains unoccupied. But a landlord must mitigate damages, meaning that the owner cannot just collect your money without seeking a replacement and working something out.

Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Fair Pay Act into law Tuesday, bringing some of the strongest equal pay protections to the Golden State. An effort to close the wage gap between men and women, the new law will give employers a choice: pay similarly situated employees the same amount regardless of gender, or come up with some really compelling reasons why not.

So what, exactly, are the burdens the new law places on small businesses? And how can business owners best prepare?

Swedish 30-Hour Work Week Experiment Intrigues Americans

Does working hard make us sick? Would we be happier and healthier if we had more freedom? Some workers in Gothenburg, Sweden are finding out.

They are part of an experiment with a 30-hour work week meant to improve worker morale and productivity. The 6-hour work day experiment operates on the assumption that working smarter, not harder, improves quality of life and work.

Telecommuting Is a Reasonable Accommodation Under the ADA

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, telecommuting may be a reasonable accommodation and employers may allow for disabled workers. But not all jobs are covered by the ADA and employers do not have to allow work off site if alternative effective accommodations are offered.

For employers considering telecommuting as an accommodation to an employee's disability, this is what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission suggests you do.

White Collar Crime Checklist: 3 Tips to Prevent Fraud in Your Office

The white collar is mostly gone. But economic crime is still going strong. Bribery, extortion, embezzlement, fraud, and tax evasion are all alive and well as white collar crimes.

These are serious offenses that do much damage to victims and society in general. Yet, they get less press than classic violent offenses. It's important to understand how financial fraud can be more harmful to your business.

After what seems like eons of customer complaints regarding an early breakfast cutoff time, McDonald's has finally assented to serving breakfast all day. The shift is seen as a response to declining sales and increased competition from the likes of Starbucks and Taco Bell.

But a peek inside the move reveals a few more details that can provide some valuable lessons to entrepreneurs and small business owners:

Google has announced that it won't make advertisers pay for ads that aren't 100 percent viewable. This is great news for small businesses using the global search engine to get the word out. Only paying for those ads that potential customers can see means you're getting more bang for your buck.

But how do you know which ads are getting viewed, or are viewable? And what are the viewability criteria?

In Europe, merchants abandoned magnetic credit card swiping machines long ago, in favor of cards with embedded computer chips. Thus far, American stores and shops have lagged behind.

But that's all about to change. Starting today, retailers who don't install microchip card readers could be on the hook for any fraudulent charges on old magnetic swipe machines. So what does your small business need to do to catch up with this new technology?

Colleges Creating Law Clinics to Help Student Startups

The law is generally not a major concern for young tech geeks dreaming of being the next Mark Zuckerburg. But sometimes, long before the first billion is made, student startups hit a snag. A serious snag -- like a state attorney general's investigation.

That is what happened to some students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who found themselves under investigation by New Jersey. Their promising software was accused of hijacking computers. Instead of developing an investment strategy, the students found themselves under investigation. Ultimately, no one was charged with a crime but the experience taught MIT to think different about the law.