Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

January 2011 Archives

QR Codes: Can Phone Barcodes Boost Sales?

The QR code is really catching on. If you have heard of QR, short for Quick Response, it's currently being discussed as the next big thing. It's a simple bar code that allows smartphones to scan them and quickly share content online. If there is a way to integrate it into your business practices and marketing, you should definitely give it a go.

Checking out quick response codes is quite easy to do, even for free. Kaywa and ZXing were recommended by Here are a few ways you might be able to use them at your business, as suggested by Fast Company:

Customers Want to Pay with Wave of Smartphone

The future is now. Why? Because now we can buy coffee at Starbucks and pay with a smartphone.

Sure, Japan has had the technology for years, but finally the service was rolled out this week at 6,800 stores as well as 1,000 Starbucks inside of Target stores. For now it is limited to BlackBerrys, iPhones or iPod Touches, so it's hardly a revolution, but it's a start.

All you have to do is download the Starbucks' app and hold your phone in front of a scanner when you by a Frapa-whatever at Starbucks. The money is then withdrawn from your Starbucks account, which you can load with money.

Disgruntled Employee Lawsuits on the Rise

Bad news for business owners everywhere: disgruntled employees lawsuits are on the rise. The cause of the discontent varies but the end result is always the same -- a lawsuit that costs both time and money. According to the EEOC, the average discrimination lawsuit costs $235,000.

Employment practice liability claims can include: age discrimination, sexual harassment, gender discrimination, disability discrimination and retaliation. Racial discrimination comprises the majority of claims, 36% in total. The recession is the primary culprit for the rise in employment practice liability claims, according to Inc.

Twitter Defamation: Can Your Business Sue?

Can you sue for business damages if someone takes to Twitter or other social media sites and starts talking trash? Is there such a thing as twitter defamation?

A recent case involving Courtney Love and a small business sheds very interesting light on the subject. The case involving allegations of defamation against Courtney Love stems from posts she made about a small businesswoman.

New U.S. Consumer Complaint Site To Hurt Small Biz?

You know how people can rate a business on websites like Well, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is about to create a government-operated site similar to Yelp.

The CPSC is planning to make its database of consumer complaints available on March 11 at, Reuters reports.

2010 1099: Instructions and Forms Information

Are you ready to fill out your 2010 1099 forms? Well ready or not, it is the month of January also known as Form 1099 season. So if you have a small business, you need to make sure that you have your 2010 1099 forms in order. So if you are confused about what you need to file, here are some frequently asked questions and 2010 1099 instructions that you can use:

What is a Form 1099?

Form 1099 is a form used to report the miscellaneous income for individuals and companies who have been paid $600 or more during the calendar year for non-employee service payments, according UCLA Tax Services. These payments do not include royalty payments of $10 or more. Form 1099 typically involves payments made to independent contractors such as attorneys, performers, physicians, rent, and guest lecturers or speakers. Any wages and compensation paid to employees go on a W-2 form, not a 1099 form.

New ID Theft Red Flags Rule Affects Small Biz?

Small business owners have federal new requirements to protect against identity theft in their businesses.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that over 9 million Americans are victims of identity theft annually. As a result, the FTC introduced what is known as the "red flags" rule that was slated to be enforced back in November 2009. The so-called red flags rule requires that certain creditors and organizations with covered accounts implement programs that would identify, detect and address warning signs of possible identity theft in the course of business.

According to the FTC, the red flags programs implemented by such businesses must:

Employee Privacy in the Workplace

Do business owners have the right to monitor employee's internet or phone usage?

Employee privacy rights have become an increasingly controversial legal issue, especially as employers increase their reliance on computers and email in the modern-day workplace. Simply put, although it may be easy, even entertaining, to monitor your employees' online activities, be careful that your activities are not verging on illegal.

Employee privacy rights in the workplace need to be weighed against your desire to control business operations. Here are some basic rights to know in some of the more popular privacy-related areas.

Gun Stores: New California Ammunition Law

After ringing in 2011, gun store owners should be aware of the new California ammunition law that is aimed at better tracking criminals who use handguns to commit crimes. Officially known as AB 962, there are important requirements and changes to the sale of ammunition about to be enacted this week.

Outdoor and gun stores should be aware of: "The measure requires vendors of handgun ammunition to keep a log of information on handgun ammunition sales, store ammunition in a safe and secure manner and require the face-to-face transfer of ammunition sales," The Los Angeles Daily News reports. The new California ammunition law is similar to those enacted in other states and counties with the same crime prevention goals.

Tax Day Deadline Pushed Back

Good news for procrastinators: the tax day deadline has been pushed back, allowing taxpayers an extra weekend to file their returns. The new 2011 tax deadline is April 18.

For a business owner, one of the biggest challenges is keeping your business and personal taxes separate. As a general rule you cannot deduct your personal, living or family expenses from your business taxes unless it is clear that there is an intersection between the two. Before filing make sure you review the various deductions that are available to you and enjoy your extra weekend for filing.

Debit Card Swipe Fees: Will They Get Slashed?

Debit card swipe fees are one of the more frustrating aspects for business owners that are charged high fees for allowing their consumers to use their debit card to make a purchase. For instance, the current fee for a $100 purchase is in the range of $1.50.

The good news for business owners is that these fees may get limited or eliminated soon. The Federal Reserve has proposed cutting debit card swipe fees up to 90% to take effect in July 2011, something that banks are none too happy about because of the potential huge loss in profits.

ESPN's Ron Franklin Fired for Sexist Comments

"Why don't you leave this to the boys, sweetcakes." -- Former ESPN Announcer Ron Franklin.

Sexual harassment is no joke, it can cost you your job. So learned ESPN announcer Ron Franklin after calling a female "sweet baby" during a Chick Fil-A Bowl pregame meeting and when she objected, called her an "asshole." Franklin was pulled from the Fiesta Bowl broadcast for the comments made to sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards. Another colleague was present when Ron Franklin made the comments and reported him to ESPN management, SPORTSbyBROOKS reports.

Can I Legally Post Celebrity Videos To My Blog?

We live in a society that not only embraces celebrity, we thrive on it. According to CBS News, the phenomenon of regular folks thirsting for celebrity video, news, and gossip is bigger than ever. Experts say that celebrities' images provide consumers with the ability to instantly recognize or relate with a product versus getting buried in a sea of logos. So when we see Michael Jordan's Nike shoes or Angelina Jolie wearing Christian Louboutin shoes, they have an added appeal.

While that instant recognition can translate to a lucrative business, or even more traffic to an individually-owned blog, there are some legal issues that individuals need to think about if they are posting celebrity videos and images online. There is the issue of copyright infringement. In particular, online copyright infringement. There is also the issue of a celebrity's right of publicity.

USS Enterprise Video: Hostile Workplace?

While lots of bosses want their employees to think that they are a cool, funny and approachable, they should be aware that there is a line that should not be crossed.

The Navy is currently investigating whether that line was crossed when Capt. Owen Honors aired a series of "clearly inappropriate" videos aboard the USS Enterprise replete with gay slurs, mimicked masturbation, men in drag, a mock rectal examination, and last but not least, women who appear to be showering together.

Top 3 Tips for Starting a Small Business

It's a new year, and for many of us, that means starting a small business. Starting a business is something that comes with a lot of excitement and apprehension. To that end, we're here to offer you our top three tips for starting a small business in 2011.

Create a business plan:

You need to have a plan in place for your business from the beginning. Who are your potential customers? What are your expenses? Where will the money come from?

The business plan doesn't have to be long. It just needs to cover a few essential points. For example, a break-even analysis, a profit-loss forecast and a cash-flow analysis. A business plan is crucial because it will help you to get your business on paper, long before you open your doors.