Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

October 2017 Archives

More and more states are legalizing it, meaning there are more and more business opportunities out there when it comes to marijuana. But, as opposed to computer science degrees for coders and engineers, MBAs for small business entrepreneurs, and even wine- and beer-making programs, there are precious few educational opportunities for those make a career in the weed field. (Outside of what you glean from the internet and that burnt out neighbor with a few sickly plants in his closet.)

But as marijuana goes mainstream, some colleges are looking to cash in, including Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan, which began its medical plant chemistry program this semester. So do you need a dank degree in cannabis cultivation?

How to Keep Side Jobs Legal

The days of just having one 9-to-5 job may be coming to an end. Almost everyone has some kind of side hustle on top of a regular job, if not multiple regular jobs. But as USA Today recently pointed out, even having a lemonade stand on the side can run afoul of the law. From permits and licenses to insurance and taxes, having a side job can be way more complicated than just going out and doing your thing.

On the other hand, small business owners now have to recognize that their employees might be moonlighting at another gig. This may not make them happy, especially if they feel the side gig is encroaching on or stealing from their business. But firing someone who has a side hustle isn't always the best option.

So here are three things for both employees and employers to think about when it comes to keeping side jobs legal.

Over 20 years after the federal government guaranteed workers at businesses with over 50 employees unpaid family leave time, California is now extending those protections to small business employees. Last week, Governor Jerry Brown signed the New Parent Leave Act into law, requiring companies that employ at least 20 workers to grant new parents up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a year after a child's birth, adoption, or foster care placement.

The law is estimated to impact 2.8 million small business employees in the Golden State. Here's what you need to know.

Hundreds of former Tesla employees found themselves jobless this month, but the company was insistent that the cuts were not layoffs. "As with any company, especially one of over 33,000 employees, performance reviews also occasionally result in employee departures," a Tesla spokesperson told the Mercury News. "Tesla is continuing to grow and hire new employees around the world."

But that's not how several current and former employees describe the cuts, claiming those fired had little or no warning, with some being notified by email or phone and told not to come into work the next day. While Tesla may be trying to save face by not using the word "layoff," it could also be dodging certain employment laws.

Most small businesses gave up on accepting only cash a couple decades ago. And in another couple decades we may look back and think of dollars, cents, and even credit and debit cards as antiquated payment methods.

At this point, it's not a matter of determining whether your small business will accept cryptocurrencies, but deciding when, which ones, and how you will creatively fold them into your existing payment structures. Here's a quick primer on cryptocurrencies, and how blockchain, Bitcoin, and the rest can be a boon to your small business.

When some small businesses see the holiday season approaching, their eyes get as big as dinner plates, looking forward to a boost in sales. Other small business owners might start sweating, anticipating numerous time-off requests, and wondering whether they have to pay extra for the employees that do stick around.

Whether you're anticipating big things for your small business in the coming months or anxiously awaiting February, 'tis the season to start making those holiday plans. Here's how:

By all accounts Harvey Weinstein left a trail of sexual harassment, assault, and rape a mile and decades wide before being fired by his company's board of directors this weekend. The board claims it only just found out about Weinstein's behavior, but his excuse -- "I came of age in the 60's and 70's, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then." -- would appear to undercut that assertion.

And by many accounts, Weinstein's behavior, while abhorrent, is not unique in corporate culture. So what lessons can small business owners take from the scandal that the Weinstein Company board of directors may have missed? Here are a few:

The majority of employment arrangements are at-will, meaning an employer can fire an employee for any reason or no reason at all. But there are exceptions to that rule, and some reasons for firing are illegal. And there may be some hoops an employer must jump through before firing a union-member employee

So while it might seem like an easy answer to say "Yes, you can fire an employee for shopping at work," the answer gets a little more difficult if the employees were union members whose termination didn't go to arbitration first. If that's the case, you may end up in federal circuit court.

Most entrepreneurs have a laser focus on their companies, and that doesn't leave a whole lot of time to keep up with the latest legal cases. (After all, that's what they pay their attorneys for.) But small business owners are going to have a big interest in what's going on in the Supreme Court this term, with cases touching on just about every aspect running a business, from employee unions to customer discrimination to patent and intellectual property law.

Here are the three biggest:

October is National Women's Small Business Month, and at a time when the news concerning women employees getting equal pay might be depressing, the news concerning women entrepreneurs and small business owners is a bit more hopeful. "National Women's Small Business Month is a time to recognize and applaud the talented, dedicated and driven women whose entrepreneurial spirit helps drive our nation's economy forward," said National Women's Business Council Chair Carla Harris. "Women's entrepreneurship has evolved from a growing trend to an inarguable contributor to the economic success, job growth and innovative backbone of this country."

Indeed, the trends of female small business ownership, funding, and success are on the rise, and hopefully that continues. Here are three other reasons to celebrate women small business owners this month:

At this point, it's pretty safe to assume that every tech company, from Google and Twitter to that virtual reality "unicorn" you never heard of, is being sued for gender discrimination. And the claims are all pretty similar: female employees, especially engineers, are paid less than their male counterparts and given fewer opportunities for advancement, all with a little harassment. The names may change, but the song remains the same.

Well, add Oracle to that ever-growing list. Three female ex-engineers are suing the database software giant, claiming they were all paid less than men for "substantially equal or similar work."

If you have employees, chances are you have to pay state unemployment insurance taxes. Exactly how much you'll pay will depend on where your business is located and how much you're paying your employees.

Penny pinching employers may be thinking they can reduce that tax burden by cutting back on their employees' hours, but does it necessarily work out that way? Here's a look.