Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

April 2011 Archives

New Guide Helps Small Business with ADA Rules

A lot of changes have been made to the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act over the last few years, making it difficult for many businesses to properly follow the law.

In response, the Department of Justice issued a new guide earlier this month, the ADA Update: A Primer for Small Businesses, aiming to clarify those changes and help promote compliance.

Under the ADA, small business owners must accommodate both employees and customers in ways that require a consideration of what is and is not reasonable under the circumstances.

When Can You Hire Minors For Your Business?

Summer is coming up and teenagers have started looking for summer jobs. You may even want to hire a few.

You're probably aware that special laws apply when hiring minors, but it's a bit more tricky than hourly limits. Both state and federal laws place limitations on where a teen may work.

Here's a quick rundown on what federal law says, and how you can find out about any local restrictions.

Create Social Media Policy to Avoid Lawsuits

Unfortunately, the legal world is somewhat devoid of any concrete rules about the intersection of social media and the law. It's a relatively new field and most defendants simply don't want to risk trial.

This is a problem for the business world, as the prevalence of social media can give rise to employer liability when an employee breaks the law or causes an uncomfortable working environment.

It's therefore a good idea to create a social media policy--guidelines that spell out what employees can and can't do--at work and at home and with company technology.

Protect Customers From Lunatics or Pay in Court?

On Wednesday, a Maryland jury awarded two women a combined $1.6 million in a negligence lawsuit in which they argued that Nordstrom failed to properly protect customers from a mentally ill woman armed with knives.

While it seems that the verdict is a signal to businesses that they must protect customers from dangerous persons, this is in fact untrue.

The duty that businesses owe their patrons is much more subtle.

Bar Criminally Liable for Patron's DUI Crash

If you think your business can't be held liable for the criminal acts of employees, think again.

A Philadelphia bar has pled guilty to criminal charges after its employees served an inebriated patron who was then escorted to her car. The patron ended up crashing her vehicle, killing herself and two others.

The bar is now on the hook for $12,500 in fines and restitution.

Who Else Wants to Hire Employees Efficiently?

One of the biggest costs in hiring new employees is the amount of time dedicated to combing through resumes and conducting interviews. This is especially true for small businesses that don't have enough manpower to pick up the slack.

What if there were an easier, more cost-effective way of orchestrating the hiring process? If your business is tech-savvy, this solution may actually exist.

Background Checks Do's and Don't's

Background checks are an important hiring tool, helping you net the best applicant and fend off any future lawsuits.

They, however, come with a few legal constraints of their own, and are subject to privacy rules, disclosure requirements, and federal discrimination laws.

To help you navigate the world of background checks, here are our top "do's" and "don'ts."

Could an Email Cost You Half Your Business?

Just as Mark Zuckerburg declares victory in one lawsuit seeking a stake in Facebook, he's faced with another.

Paul Ceglia, who is suing Zuckerburg for a 50% share in the social networking site, amended his complaint yesterday, providing the court with new evidence that he says proves his case.

This new evidence has come in the form of 7-year-old emails, which were purportedly exchanged by a young Zuckerburg and Paul Ceglia, who was an investor in the budding startup.

What is Tax Deductible for Small Business?

There is no definite answer for those of you who wish to know just what is tax deductible for a small business.

According to the painfully dry tax code, a business may deduct all expenses that are ordinary, necessary and reasonable.

Just what does that mean? Think about expenses that are helpful, appropriate and common in your line of work.

Oh, and they can't make you laugh.

How to Prevent a Hostile Work Environment

One of your responsibilities as an employer is to create a harassment-free work environment.

Under federal law, employers are legally responsible if they permit a hostile work environment to persist without taking corrective action.

It's therefore necessary to monitor your employees' conduct as well as put in place a harassment policy.

New Wave of Entrepreneurs: FindLaw's Got Your Back

With startups at a 15-year high and growing monthly, it's clear that unemployed Americans are responding to the struggling economy by creating jobs of their own.

At over 4 million monthly visitors, is the number one legal information website, giving it a unique view of just what this new wave of entrepreneurs and established small business owners are looking for.

Dedicated to its small business community, FindLaw is taking this data into consideration and doing a little growing of its own.

Use Your Personal Car for Business? Deduct It

Besides home offices, perhaps the most-asked question about small business tax deductions is whether or not you can deduct your personal car.

The short answer is yes, there is a car tax deduction for small businesses.

However, it requires a bit of recordkeeping and calculations on your part. You also actually have to use your vehicle for business (that darn pesky IRS Code).

Women-Owned Businesses Have Risen 50%

The American Express Co. OPEN State of Women-Owned Businesses Report is out, and there is some very good news for female entrepreneurs.

The survey, which utilizes data collected every five years by the U.S. Census Bureau, reports that there are 8.1 million women-owned businesses in the United States--up 50% from its start date in 1997.

Women-owned businesses also outperformed their male counterparts in all fields.

Who Now Qualifies as a Disabled Employee?

So what is a disability, anyway? Well, the feds have changed the definition and it may mean changes for business owners.

Last week, the EEOC issued final guidelines implementing the ADA Amendments Act, expanding the definition of "disability" to include significantly more ailments.

If you have fifteen or more employees, the ADA and ADA Amendments Act apply to you.

If this is the case, pay attention. The new guidelines will be changing the way you handle disabled employees and reasonable accommodations.

Waitresses Fired: Skimpy Uniforms Didn't Fit

After being forced to model in skimpy employee uniforms, fifteen middle-aged cocktail waitresses were fired from Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City for not projecting the right image.

In other words, they were no longer sexy enough.

If you don't like the way an employee looks, can you fire her too?

3 Ways to Help Your Startup Succeed

The number of startups has been steadily increasing, with 2010 boasting a 15-year high with 565,000 new startups each month.

Experts pin the growth on unemployment and dissatisfaction, but, according to CNN Money, experts also caution that starting a business out of desperation is not the right path to startup success.

Even if a lack of contentment is behind your startup, that doesn't mean you can't be successful in your venture. Here are a few tips to make this happen.

April Fools' Day Pranks: Try Not to Get Sued

It's April Fools' Day and April Fools' pranks will abound today.

While some sites out there are touting April Fools' Day pranks and giving you great ideas on how to trick your neighbors, friends, family and coworkers, you're not going to get that over here.

The fact is that April Fools' Day is supposed to be fun, but if your prank goes awry, you may find yourself in legal trouble.

Not so funny anymore, is it?