Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

November 2010 Archives

Cyber Monday Hurt Small Business?

We all love a deal. Consumers continue to look for the best way to find a bargain during Black Friday, Cyber Monday and throughout the rest of the gift-buying season. However, if we go first to the internet to find that best buy, we might be contributing to the cycle of hard times by hurting our local small businesses.

One proponent of local small business, especially in the retail sector, believes that is exactly what is happening, according to BusinessNews.

Business leaders say consumers can do their part to support local businesses. "[T]here's something simple everyone can do that can actually make an impact. Think twice before you buy on the Internet! When there's a choice of buying that gift online, or from your local retailer, buy local and keep the money in your community," said Harry J. Friedman, founder and CEO of The Friedman Group, an international retail consulting and training organization.

Get Paid by Credit Card Anywhere With New App

Has your business been considering taking credit cards but you don't know which option you should choose? Many small businesses are concerned about merchant fees for accepting credit, but those fears are often overblown. If you're looking for an easy, mobile solution, there are three options that your business should consider:

Square, Intuit GoPayment and Verifone's PAYware Mobile.

Square's CEO is Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter. It features a free credit card swiper that plugs into your iPhone or Android phones headphone jack. The new app charges 2.75 percent for each swiped transaction and 3.5 percent for each keyed-in transaction.

Keeping Shoppers Safe On Black Friday

So much of the hype surrounding the Black Friday shopping holiday centers around the deals. Whether searching for shoes, electronics, or kitchen items, the sheer number of markdowns is enough to inspire even the deepest turkey commas out of bed early Friday morning to beat the crowds.

From a store owner's perspective, the prospect of large sales should not be the only thing on your mind. With large crowds comes great responsibility. Specifically, store owners should be equally (if not more) concerned with crowd control measures and safety issues as they are with stocking shelves and swiping credit cards. Here are the top two areas to look out for in order to keep shoppers safe on Black Friday:

Can You Fire Employee for Throwing a Tantrum?

Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young stormed out of the stadium after was called a "heated exchange" with coach Jeff Fisher following the team's overtime loss.

The Vince Young meltdown began when he left the field while the game was still going on after facing what turned out to be a season-ending injury to his throwing hand. On his way off the field, Young threw his shoulder pads and uniform into the stands.

So what happens in the non-sporting world when people pull a Vince Young-like meltdown of their own at work?

Congress to Repeal 1099 Reporting Expansion?

Earlier this week, we discussed the efforts by Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to move toward a possible repeal of the new 1099 reporting requirements for businesses. Originally proposed under the Bush Administration, the increase in tax revenue brought in by the 1099 reporting requirements would have gone to help fund the Affordable Care Act.

However, the increased 1099 reporting would be especially burdensome for small businesses, reports The New York Times. As previously discussed, a business would have to report to the IRS any goods or services purchased over $600 in a year. Small business worry that the effort to report would be substantial. For each vendor supplying more than the base amount of services, a company would have to send a form both to the vendor and to the IRS.

Paycheck Fairness Act's Defeat a Good Thing?

The Paycheck Fairness Act has been defeated, Forbes reports. Are business owners pleased? Does this mean business owners are out of touch sexists that want to keep women under their thumb? Or is it a sign that affirmative action-like laws are no longer necessary because society is already reasonably fair? Depends on who you ask.

Many business owners believe that the failure of the bill is good news for business.

Kids Shut Down for Illegal Cupcake Sales

Every business, no matter how very small, must get the proper permits before beginning operations. An example: a couple of 13-year-olds who were turned in for their illegal cupcake sales. To make matters worse, they were turned in to officials by a local city councilman.

Chappaqua, New York, pre-teens Andrew DeMarchis and Kevin Graff had a good thing going, selling cupcakes, Rice Crispy treats, cookies and brownies, reports The Journal News. That is, until New Castle Councilman Michael Wolfensohn called police after seeing their sweets stand at the local park.

The budding entrepreneurs were kids with a dream: DeMarchis and Graff along with two other schoolmates intended to sell enough treats to open a restaurant. A long shot, sure. But that is the the kind of business moxie that should be encouraged. However, licensing laws apply to everyone, no matter how cute, and the kids' illegal cupcake sales were shut down by an apologetic police officer.

Top Dem Tackles Small Business Tax Reform

Stereotypes are getting a small kick aside this week as a top democratic lawmaker is more or less pushing for a tax cut. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is reportedly seeking to repeal a small business tax reporting requirement that has been exceedingly unpopular with business owners. Again running against stereotype, the tax reporting requirement was originally the brainchild of the Bush administration, but was put into the healthcare reform bill to help pay costs.

Baucus says he is responding to the requests of small business in looking to repeal the act, reports The Wall Street Journal. The reporting requirement says companies must inform the IRS of any transactions they have with suppliers that are cumulatively worth $600 over the course of a year. The small business tax reporting requirement stands to raise about $19 billion over the next 10 years. Chairman Baucus has not said how he will replace the earnings.

Can Boss Fire Employee for Facebook Work Criticism?

My job sucks and I hate my boss.

Those are not the words, as an employer, that you want to see an employee broadcast anywhere, especially not on widely-disseminating social media sites like Facebook. Unfortunately, a complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board argues that there are limitations to controlling employees' Facebook speech.

So, can a boss fire employees for Facebook work criticism and complaints? The NLRB would argue no, so long as other co-workers joined in on the protected "concerted activity." This happened recently when a disgruntled employee complained about her supervisor on Facebook and many of her co-workers chimed into the discussion. She was ultimately fired for her comments. According to the NLRB, her comments were protected by the First Amendment.

Public Domain: When Can You Lift Content?

We recently covered Judith Griggs of Cook's Source magazine, who lifted a recipe and blog post from college student Monica Gaudio entitled "A Tale of Two Tarts." In the piece, we noted that Griggs listed Gaudio as the author, but made no effort to contact her or license the content. Griggs believed she was perfectly within her rights because the recipe was "in the public domain."

So what is the public domain, and when can you lift content? First off, it's best to assume that any material you come upon is not in the public domain until you can determine otherwise.

Stealing Content: Magazine Lifts Bloggers Article

There's a new trend that's sweeping the nation. It's called the reverse apology. It works like this, beat someone up, steal from them, or find some other way to hurt them. Then, after you are caught red handed, admit to doing it and say that an apology is in order. From them!

The editor of Cook's Source magazine, Judith Griggs, recently tried out the move. (Perhaps inspired by the Rand Paul supporter who kicked a woman in the head and then demanded an apology from the women he kicked?) In Judith Griggs case, she lifted a recipe and blog post from college student Monica Gaudio. The post was entitled "A Tale of Two Tarts" and explored the differences between a 14th century English apple pie recipe and one from the 16th century. Griggs did list Gaudio as the author, but made no effort to contact her or otherwise license the content. Apparently Griggs believed she was perfectly within her rights.

Exposing Self to Staff: Recipe for Harassment

A Colorado district attorney was recently arrested for exposing himself to his staff (as well as other inappropriate behavior). But the criminal charges are likely just the start of his legal woes. He and his ex-employer are likely to face a civil sexual harassment suit. The news of his deplorable treatment of his staff illustrate how such behavior is a recipe for harassment.

Myrle Serra was a top prosecutor in his office until it was discovered that he was also using his position of power for sexual favors from some of his staff members. He is now being charged with unlawful sexual conduct, indecent exposure, and several misdemeanors as a result of his highly illegal workplace antics, according to The Montrose Daily Press.

Has Small Business Lending Gone Up or Down?

Is small business lending up or down? It varies based on who you ask.

Like everything else in business, it depends on which numbers you look at. For lending to businesses with less than $20 million a year in sales, you can look at the numbers for new loans, or the numbers for all loans; each paints a different picture. According to government numbers, lending is still down.

The full story of small business lending includes both points of reference, reports The Wall Street Journal. Banks are pointing to new or renewed loans on their balance sheets to show a rise in lending. Federal regulators, meanwhile, take a somewhat broader view, looking at all credit owed to a bank, regardless of whether it is new or old.

Office Sex Party is Surefire Way to a Lawsuit

Here is a recipe for a holiday office lawsuit:

  • Invite hotel employees to company work party
  • Bring assorted sex toys
  • Have husband of boss wear thong and perform lap dances for everyone
  • Have husband of boss take off thong
  • Have boss invite employees and guests to play 'ring toss' with husband's genitalia

You would think that this would all go without saying, but, of course it does not. A hotel employee in Eugene, Oregon, is suing her boss, Julie Frederick, for just such an office "sex party." Jessica Webber, an employee at the Markum Inn, alleges that the company party got more than a little weird.

Careful How Your Biz Finds Google Customers

Rosetta Stone is suing Google over the company's AdWords policies, which they say are confusing and give their competition an unfair boost. According to Rosetta Stone, AdWords allows smaller businesses to "piggy back" on the names of bigger, well known companies.

So if you (or who you hire to do your internet marketing) use such tactics, this case could have an impact on your business. You may have to adapt or face a potential lawsuit from your competitor.

For example, a competitor of Rosetta Stone's can use the name Rosetta Stone to trigger search advertisements for Google customers. In light of Google's business practices, Rosetta Stone sued Google for trademark infringement. The case was dismissed, but Rosetta Stone is asking the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate the lawsuit.

Time Off to Vote: Employer Responsibilities

November 2 is Election Day, and employees of all political stripes may be taking a bit of time off work to vote. Employers of all sizes and stripes should be sure they know the law regarding this duty and right. The laws of nearly every state allow time off from work to vote, but whether or not other benefits such as paid time off are included, vary from state to state.

Some laws place more responsibility on the employers, some place equal responsibility on employees regarding time off to vote. In some states, the employee has certain requirements they must meet to take advantage of time off to vote. Some jurisdictions ask that employees show proof they voted, or give advance notice that they will require time off to vote. Some states allow employers to set the time that employees may take to vote.

To check on the specific requirements where your business is located, your state labor department website is a good resource for time off for voting rules in each state.

US Small Business Loans Jump

Good news for small businesses means good news for business, in general. CNBC reports that U.S. small businesses loans increased in the month of September. According to data released by PayNet, the increase in small business borrowing came sooner than expected. The Thomson Reuters/PayNet index measures the overall volume of financing to U.S. small businesses to determine the 16% jump from last year.

PayNet president William Phelan tells CNBC that the small business loan jump "doesn't point to anything but a robust recovery. These small businesses are people who see the demand in the economy every day, and they are alert to react very quickly to that demand."