Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog


Technology that can help ease traffic congestion is normally a good thing. Trains, buses, carpooling, taxis, and ridesharing apps (in most cases) -- all good for our environment and commute times. But every now and then a transportation-sharing idea comes along that can cause more of a nuisance than it's worth. And motor scooters might just be that idea.

Anyone who lived in San Francisco through the first tech boom remembers sidewalks lousy with Razor scooters. But the scooter has grown up during the current tech resurgence: it's now motorized and shareable with an app, of course. And residents are sick of them all over again. Fortunately for them, the city just passed new regulations on electric stand-up scooters.

Is It Legal to Sell Biohacking Tech or DIY Gene Therapies?

You've probably heard of a wide variety of DIY projects before -- home renovations, car mechanics, furniture builds, and the like. But what about more scientific DIY projects? Can you experiment with DNA and DIY gene therapies? Is it legal to sell these and other biohacking tech? With biohacking gaining popularity, the FDA is attempting to crackdown on the sale of these products, but many enthusiasts argue there is no law against what they're doing.

More than ever before, it seems like employees simply can't leave their political beliefs out of the workplace. Perhaps that's because of our current vitriolic political climate or because so much of our political beliefs affect what happens in the office.

Thoughts on union membership, workplace discrimination, and equal pay often come from certain political leanings or take on political overtones when discussed at work, so employers trying to keep politics out of the office have a harder task than they may even realize. Heck, employees fired for flipping off the president are now filing lawsuits against their former employers.

So how to keep your workplace above the political quagmire? Here are five things to think about:

The year 2017 was quite memorable for workplace sexual harassment allegations. But the harassment wasn't limited to Harvey Weinstein, Uber, and CEOs from hell. According to a lawsuit filed last week, even shift managers at local diners were guilty of sexual harassment and discrimination.

Three former waitresses at the Grand Coney Diner in Grand Rapids, Michigan sued the restaurant and its parent company, claiming a shift manager at the restaurant sexually harassment them and other women. And management was allegedly aware of the harassment and failed to intervene.

Amazon Worker Fired After Complaining of Hurt Back

Amazon strives to be the most customer-centric company on the planet. But one employee of the mega-retailer is wishing the company took better care of its workers as well. Bryan Hill from Seffner, Florida is suing the online retailer for firing him after he hurt his back on the job and complained to his managers.

Its creators call it a 'life skills' program that contributes to 'restorative justice.' A California judge called it extortion. And a new lawsuit against the anti-shoplifting course's creators and the retail stores that use it, including Walmart, minced no words:

"Defendants are not small-time Mafia thugs. They do not break kneecaps; they do not torch storefronts ... But despite their glittering credentials, Defendants are all participants in a long-running, highly profitable extortion scheme that has extracted millions of dollars from thousands of poor, desperate people across the country. And RICO applies, with equal force, to street hoodlums and Harvard MBAs alike."

Corrective Education Company has been accused of railroading shoplifting suspects into admitting guilt and paying up to $500 to avoid store security contacting law enforcement, and the lawsuit even refers to Walmart as a "co-conspirator" in the extortion scheme. Needless to say, you might not want to use CEC to battle shoplifting in your store. So here are five other options:

If you're going to have a warranty that covers your product, you'd like to be reasonably sure that some third party hasn't been messing with it. For example, if a customer is claiming that your product is malfunctioning and trying to invoke your warranty, you want to be sure the malfunction isn't occurring because some repair shop has been monkeying with the product.

So, you might have included some language in your warranty, voiding it if the customer used an unauthorized repair service, or you could've added a "Warranty Is Void If Broken" sticker or seal on a device. But those days are over, according to the FTC.

Startups Face Increasing Threat From Patent Trolls

You know that bully? The one who, rather than bring his own lunch to school, sits around, waiting to take other kids' lunch money? And he uses the unoriginal, yet effective, "pay up or else" threat? The patent troll is kind of like the bully of the intellectual property world. And while today's startups may not have the most lunch money on the playground, they are facing an increasing threat from these patent trolls.

It's perhaps fitting that the day before Equal Pay Day, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that employers may no longer consider salary history in setting an employee's pay.

And now that Equal Pay Day is here, you might be wondering how that court decision, and other local and state laws, affects your small business. A good rule of thumb is to pay all your employees equally for equal work at their positions, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, or any other non-business factor. Beyond that, here are five things to consider when setting wages for male, female, and non-binary employees, from our archives:

Employer Sued by Woman Fired for Flipping Off the President

Remember that photo of the cyclist flipping off President Trump's motorcade in Virginia? You may also remember that she was forced to resign just days after the photo went viral. Now the Virginia woman is suing her former employer, claiming they violated her right to free speech.