Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog


Yelp and other online review sites have become the bane of some small businesses, with many struggling to navigate sticky social media situations and asking some tough questions. Yes, you probably can ban a customer for a bad Yelp review, but the bigger question is whether you should.

But banning isn't your only option. Here are a few legal pointers when it comes to responding (or not) to Yelp reviews.

When you're leasing commercial space, you're just looking for the best place to start, grow, or continue your business. If you're getting an entire building to yourself, you probably know you need to track down local zoning ordinances to make sure your business is allowed to operate in that location.

And if you're leasing smaller space from an incubator or in a shared workspace, you're probably expecting your landlord to do their homework on those zoning laws. But beware -- hundreds of entrepreneurs may soon be evicted from a building in San Francisco because their businesses contravene local zoning laws. And the lawsuits may follow.

For most of us, taxes are pretty straightforward: You get your W-2, fire up some online tax software, and click away. But for entrepreneurs and small business owners, tax life gets a little more complicated.

Of course, there's your salary, but then you might have dividends or other income, a slew of deductions, and then sorting out all those business and personal expenses. And Trump's new tax bill didn't just affect personal filers but small businesses as well. So here are some the biggest changes to tax laws over the past year and what small biz owners need to look out for before filing their taxes.

Shoplifting and theft of products by staff -- is a problem for any retail store. The bigger the store, the bigger the problem. And, usually, the more expensive the item, the more it is stolen or shoplifted. So, it's only natural for retailers to take precautions.

But what if the items being protected behind locked cases aren't all that expensive? And what if a store is only putting products targeted to African American customers behind locked cases? That's allegedly what a Long Island Walmart was doing with women's hair care products, until they reversed course after a public backlash. But was it illegal?

Just about every business, small and large, wants a diverse team of executives, managers, and staff. Primarily, diversity in backgrounds and opinions can make your company better, attracting more customers, clients, and prospective employees. Beyond that, you could get in trouble legally if your company isn't diverse or inclusive enough. So, how do you get there?

It's no surprise that many small businesses are turning to tech to solve their diversity deficits. But, while there are some great new tools available to address certain diversity issues, businesses can't only rely on the latest AI to overhaul their workplace.

In many industries, salespeople earn a living thanks to commissions, which can often get characterized as kickbacks. However, sometimes commissions or kickbacks aren't necessarily a good way to sell. They may not even be a legal way to sell, particularly in heavily regulated sectors.

In short, a kickback is illegal when there is a law prohibiting it, or similar conduct. These will often exist in the context of consumer protection laws, as well as government funding. And if you aren't sure whether your commissioned sales team is being paid legit commissions or illegal kickbacks, you'll want to read on.

Starting any business is risky. Even more so when starting a business whose legality at the federal level remains, shall we say, murky. Luckily, some of those risks can be mitigated, if you've got the right insurance. So what kind of insurance is right for a budding cannabiz?

Here are four types of small business insurance essential to your marijuana startup, along with a couple others you might want to consider as well.

Excitement mounted last summer when Starbucks announced Bakkt, a cryptocurrency venture with Microsoft and Intercontinental Exchange. Frappuccino fans were frothing that they may finally be allowed to buy their coffee with Bitcoin. Sadly, that was not the case.

"It is important to clarify that we are not accepting digital assets at Starbucks. Rather the exchange will convert digital assets like Bitcoin into US dollars, which can be used at Starbucks," a Starbucks spokesperson clarified to Motherboard. "At the current time, we are announcing the launch of trading and conversion of Bitcoin. However, we will continue to talk with customers and regulators as the space evolves."

But just because the coffee company curbed cryptocurrency at its cash registers, does that mean your business should, too?

It's the most politically controversial fashion statement since the hippies grew their hair out. Wearing one is like putting a lightning rod on your head during a thunderstorm. And now some public accommodations are banning customers from wearing them.

Yep -- it's the iconic, red, "Make America Great Again" hat, synonymous with President Donald Trump's campaign and a particular strain of his supporters. And they're verboten at Wursthall Restaurant and Bierhaus in San Mateo, California.

The Super Bowl is this Sunday. March Madness is right around the corner. And with several states legalizing sports betting recently, 2019 has the potential to be the biggest sports gambling year yet.

So, what do small biz owners need to know before sports betting invades their offices? Here are a few legal pointers.