Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog


Everything ends badly, the old saying goes, otherwise it wouldn't end. And while that's not always true in the small business world -- sometimes you're happy to see employees move on to bigger and better things -- more often than not, the employer-employee relationship ends on a sour note. And if it does, that can complicate the process of providing a reference for your former worker.

So, what do you do? Tell the truth? Say nothing? Here are a few legal tips on keeping your job references above board, both when providing them for former employees and searching them for future ones.

Nobody likes a bad Yelp review. And small businesses definitely don't like a defamatory Yelp review. And a small law firm faced with a defamatory Yelp review is probably gonna sue.

That's what Dawn Hassell of the Hassell Law Group did in response to a Yelp review that claimed Hassell agreed to represent an injured client, "then reneged on the case because her mom had a broken leg, or something like that, and that the insurance company was too much for her to handle," adding, "you can find a competent attorney, but this wont [sic] be one of them." And while Hassell won a default judgment against her former client, an order requiring Yelp to remove the review was just overturned by the California Supreme Court.

Fitbit Settles Lawsuit Over Haptic Feedback Patents

Fitbit is active in the legal arena again. It has been embroiled in numerous patent infringement and trade secret cases over the last few years with companies such as Jawbone and Valencell.

Most recently, Fitbit was sued last year by Immersion in both the US and China for using what Immersion claims are three of its patented technologies related to Haptic Feedback. (For those keeping track, that would be patents 8,351,299, 8,059,105, and 8,638,301.) What is Haptic Feedback? More on that later.

Wondering why half your staff is rolling in a little late in the morning, or still hasn't come back from lunch? Noticing a slight dip in production while your employees are working? Does it feel like half your team is happy and the other half sad, or do some workers feel distracted -- zoning out with a far-off look in their eye and perhaps muttering to themselves in a foreign language? Is the word "GOOOOOOOOOOOOAL" echoing through your office corridors?

It's the World Cup -- the most watched sporting spectacle in the world. And this year's chaotic tournament has left some fans ecstatic and others a bit shell-shocked, as you might've seen around the office. You might've even heard some water cooler talk about a betting pool, and whose teams are out and whose are still in. And even if the banter is all good-natured and fun, are World Cup betting pools a good idea in your office? Are they even legal?

Small businesses across the country are likely wondering whether or not they should be dropping American Express after the Supreme Court's recent decision in the credit giant's favor. If you care about the company's share price, that might not be a smart move, but if you're not invested, then it's a bit different.

That case centered on whether Amex's standard practice of requiring retailers to not promote other cards, or steer shoppers to use other credit cards, like Discover or Visa, resulted in an antitrust violation for anti-competitive behavior. Most small businesses are already aware of the fact that American Express charges higher swipe-fees, but for those who decide to swallow that swipe-fee pill, the anti-steering provisions can often feel like discovering that spoonful of sugar was really salt.

If you haven't been skipping the pages of the 11th edition of the World Health Organization's International Statistical Classification of Diseases, you might have seen that the WHO now considers "gaming disorder" as a mental health disorder. And as an employer, you're probably wondering whether that, in turn, counts as a disability, one for which you're required to provide employees with a reasonable accommodation.

So, does every office need a PlayStation 4 now?

As old tax laws and court rulings struggle to catch up to e-commerce, some of the nice loopholes that benefitted online retailers are closing fast. One in particular -- that allowed retailers to avoid charging a state's sales tax if they didn't maintain a physical presence in that state -- was shut tight by the Supreme Court this week.

In a 5-4 decision, the Court admitted previous rulings on the issue of internet sales tax were "flawed," and can "create, rather than resolve market distortions." So, what does this reversal mean for your small business?

The most-watched sporting event in the world is airing right now, and depending on your time zone and your kind of small business, that could be good or bad news. If you're a bar, restaurant, or cafe broadcasting World Cup games could be a boon for your bottom line. Any other employer, and you may be wondering why your staff are taking long lunches, or screaming from their desks for no apparent reason.

With the World Cup in full swing, here's what you need to know about watching the games at work, whether it's a draw for customers to come in, or a reason for employees zoning out.

The surplus of students looking for summer work can be a boon for your small business. But if not hired and handled properly, summer employees can be more trouble than they're worth. The summer months can also offer new challenges for your year-round staff.

So how do you get summer hires right, and take care of your employees during the summer? Here are some tips for hiring, supervising, and paying summer employees, from our archives:

You may have heard the term 'drug mule' -- a person who, wittingly or not, transports illicit drugs across the border. You may not, however, have heard of a 'money mule.' These folks set up bank accounts to funnel ill-gotten money from U.S. business to international scam artists.

Being a money mule can be incredibly easy, unbelievably lucrative, and most definitely illegal, as over 20 Floridians indicted for a laundry list of federal financial crimes recently found out.