Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

July 2011 Archives

Blogger Defamation Suit Survives Dismissal

As the business of blogging has become an important part of popular media, so has the blogger defamation suit.

In one of the newer suits to hit the blogging community, a federal judge has refused to toss out a lawsuit filed by former USDA official Shirley Sherrod against conservative political blogger Andrew Breitbart.

He and his employee have been accused of editing video footage of a speech Sherrod gave on racial reconciliation to make it appear as though she was making racist remarks against white farmers.

Workers' Compensation: How to Handle an Injured Worker

As a business owner, you try your best to create a safe environment that prevents on-the-job injuries, but sometimes an injured worker is just out of your hands.

As you likely know, after acquiring emergency care for such an employee, you need to report the injury to your insurance company and the state within a set period of time.

But your obligations don't end here--you may be required to take (or not take) further action under your state's workers' compensation laws.

Employee Safety: What Are My OSHA Obligations?

If you're an employer that is unsure about what the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) law is, or what OSHA guidelines you should be following, a quick introduction may be necessary.

OSHA mandates that all employers engaged in business affecting commerce need to provide safe working conditions for their employees.

This means that employers need to be sure to remove hazardous or dangerous conditions, amongst other things. Do you know what your obligations are under OSHA?

Cyberattacks Now Targeting Small Business

With recent news of security breaches attacking large companies like Sony Entertainment and Epsilon, it's easy to think that small businesses don't need to take steps to prevent cyberattacks.

But, according to Armorize, a website security firm, in the last month a group of hackers has infected nearly 30,000 websites, many of which are run by small businesses.

Unfortunately, this seems to be a growing trend.

Utah Liquor Laws Makes Life Hard for Business

If there was ever a group of laws that made it difficult for those in the hospitality industry, it surely wouldn't surpass the hardships imposed by Utah liquor laws.

Though they were slightly relaxed in 2009, they still prove to be a confusing mixture of time restrictions, licensing levels, and state owned liquor stores.

And don't forget about the new ban on happy hour and drink specials.

Tip Credits: Dept. of Labor Sued Over New Rule

As a small business owner, what do you know about tip credit rates for your tipped employees?

What about the tip credit rule, set down by the Department of Labor and recently affirmed by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals?

If you're unsure about tip credits and how they function for your business, you may want to read on. And, even if you're sure you know the rules about tip credits, maybe you should think again - the Department of Labor recently revamped them.

Hindus Served Meat Can Sue NJ Restaurant

For a certain subset of Hindus, meat is considered damaging to the purity of the soul, affecting one's relationship with God. To cleanse the soul they must travel to India and undergo a ritual that lasts anywhere from a few days to a whole month.

After being forced into this very situation, a group of Hindus in Edison, New Jersey is suing local restaurant Moghul Express, which accidentally supplied the plaintiffs with meat-filled samosas back in 2009.

According to a state appellate court, the suit can now go forward.

Should Your Business Get a Google+ Page?

Facebook business pages, LinkedIn, and now the possibility of a Google+ business-oriented page. Should your business get in on the new Google+ expansion?

According to a recent announcement on YouTube by Google product manager Christian Oestlien, while Google+ is currently focusing on a consumer-oriented social network, it will soon be launching a business-oriented site.

Some businesses have already tried to jump the gun, creating profiles for their companies under a traditional user framework. For the most part, however, Google has been deleting these pages, urging businesses to wait until business profiles are up and ready. What should your business be prepared for?

Have You Been Hit By a Copycat Business?

Copycat businesses.

They can turn your unique, successful business into one of many, diluting your market share and your profit margin, forcing you to compete for business that at one point came easily.

With the power of the internet and the easy spread of knowledge, more and more entrepreneurs are having their ideas stolen by copycats.

What can they do?

MN Beer Shutdown: Liquor Stores Closing Doors

Spurned on by an impasse between Democratic Governor Mark Dayton and Republican legislators, it appears as though the Minnesota government shutdown may turn into a Minnesota beer shutdown.

As of July 1, when the government shut its doors, at least 300 bars, restaurants and liquor stores have been unable to renew their state alcohol buyer's cards, leaving them with dwindling supplies.

Now they may have to shut their doors.

Firing Employee for Eating Hot Dogs Unjustified

It may be strange to read about a hot dog firing, but the case of Nolan Koewler of Evansville, Indiana is an incredible example of why you need to be clear with all of your employees, and post notices so everyone gets the message.

Because, as a result of failing to do just that, a panel of three judges sitting on the Indiana Court of Appeals has determined that Mr. Koewler was not justifiably fired from a local Dillard's department store.

Now Dillard's unemployment taxes are going to go up.

Starbucks Tips Lawsuit Dismissed by NY Court

The Starbucks tips lawsuit, filed by five former assistant store managers from New York City and Long Island, has met its end. The court found in favor of the coffee chain, with Starbucks winning a dismissal of the lawsuit.

The assistant managers had alleged that Starbucks corporate had coerced them into sharing tips, reports Reuters.

They also alleged that Starbucks was in violation of New York's state labor laws, since they performed similar duties as baristas and other workers who were given tips, Reuters reports.

Newark Law: Armed Guards at Small Restaurants

As of last Thursday night, small restaurants in Newark, New Jersey must hire and post armed security guards on their premises if they wish to remain open at night.

The so-called Newark armed guards law applies to restaurants that can serve a maximum of 15 patrons, and that remain open after 9 p.m. However, those that close at 10 p.m. are not required to arm themselves.

Why is Newark targeting only small restaurants?

Legal to Ban Children from Your Business?

As much as most people love children, most business owners would tend to agree that having kids in a store or restaurant may also be a liability. A restaurant in Pennsylvania has made headlines this week with its ban on children under the age of 6 - should your business do the same?

There are some drawbacks to banning kids. First and foremost, kids' parents are usually the bread and butter customer of most stores and restaurants. And, by preventing children from entering into the business, you might be reducing your business' chance of making sales from moms and dads.

But, what are some upsides? And, is it legal to have such a ban?

'Fake News' Crackdown: Avoid Deceptive Claims

Thinking about advertising your new product via a fake news site like in the acai berry scheme? If you do, you may run afoul of the FTC.

The FTC has recently started to crack down on acai berry schemes. The fake news sites look to be from legitimate news sources like NBC, CNN, Fox or USA Today, but are actually not affiliated with the outlets at all.

The ads in question look to be real news stories, but are actually simply clever advertisements disguised as news stories designed to catch customers. How can your business avoid running into trouble?

Swipe Fee Limit Raised, Retailers to Take Hit

The Federal Reserve has agreed to raise swipe fee limits. The debit card fees, or "swipe fees," are charges that banks can collect when a card is swiped.

Last year, the Federal Reserve had proposed that swipe fees should be capped at a maximum of 12 cents. Now, banks will be able to get a fee of 21 cents, reports The Washington Post.

While the new limits are still much lower than the current swipe fee average of 44 cents per swipe, retailers and business are unhappy with the Fed's decision.

Ca. Overtime Laws Apply to Nonresident Workers

If you think your business is exempt from California overtime laws, think again.

Under the California Supreme Court's newly released decision in Sullivan v. Oracle, all non-exempt employees are subject to California's wage and hour laws for any work that is conducted within the state's borders.

This is regardless of whether an employee is a California resident, or your company is based within the state.

Will 'Amazon Tax' Kill Small Biz Affiliate Programs?

For some small businesses or solo entrepreneurs, referring buyers over to Amazon or other online retail giants can mean serious coin. But, the effect of an internet tax on affiliate programs (the so-called "Amazon tax"), might mean an end to many affiliate relationships nationwide.

California recently passed a law that would require internet retailers like Amazon to charge customers for sales tax on purchases made on the site.

The new law, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, would only make Amazon required to charge customers sales tax if they have connection to California via workers, warehouses or other offices, reports the Los Angeles Times. What does that mean for affiliates who rely on click-through customers?

Should Teens be Banned from Tanning Beds?

New teen tanning regulations may soon be a reality for tanning salons.

California, one of the largest states in the U.S., is considering implementing a new ban that would prevent teens under the age of 18 from going under the lamp, reports the AP.

Teens under the age of 14 are already prohibited from using tanning beds. Under the current regulations, teens between the ages of 14 and 18 can tan, but only with parental approval, the AP reports.