Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

November 2012 Archives

Selling Your Office? 5 Legal Issues to Consider

For any business owner there comes a time when you need to consider selling your office. It's important to know the legal implications when you do.

Maybe it's because you're retiring and handing the business over to someone new. Maybe it's because your business is growing and needs a bigger home. Regardless of the reason, you still need to know how to protect your legal interests.

An experienced attorney will be able to handle all the details but you still want to know what to look out for in the process. Here are five legal issues to consider:

Where Should You Incorporate Your Small Biz?

When it comes to starting a small business, figuring out which state you should incorporate in is something that often comes up.

Even if you aren't worried about which state to choose, chances are good that at least one business person you know will ask which state you're filing your incorporation documents in. There are a lot of choose from, but most business owners just pick from three.

Aside from your home state, Nevada and Delaware are the most popular states in which to incorporate a new business. But do those states give your business any advantages?

3 Ways to Lawsuit-Proof Your Business

When you start a business, you'll have a lot of things on your mind (like actually getting your business off the ground). But you'll also want to think carefully about how to make your small business lawsuit-proof.

In fact, most owners don't consider the legal aspects of their business until they're actually defending themselves in a lawsuit. That's not a fun experience, and it's not cheap either.

There is some credence to the old adage, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Here are three ways you can protect your business from lawsuits, as suggested by Crain's New York Business:

Strip Club Employment Suit Settles for $13M

Strippers around the country may be dancing all the way to the bank, as a strip-club employment lawsuit has settled for $13 million. The suit centered around whether the exotic dancers were properly classified as independent contractors or if they were in fact employees.

Why should a small business owner care? Because the improper classification of workers is a common employment law problem faced by employers everywhere.

However, because the strippers settled their lawsuit out of court, similarly situated workers will not have a ruling they can cite, reports The Huffington Post.

Mobile Tuesday: Top 10 Mobile-Shopping Cities

Mobile Tuesday, the newest addition to the series of post-Thanksgiving holiday shopping days, is a testament to how much smartphone shopping has grown.

More than two-thirds of Americans own smartphones or other mobile devices, and the vast majority of those people use their smartphones to make purchases. That means retailers who make their products available for purchase online -- and via smartphone-friendly websites and apps -- have an advantage.

For retailers in cities where mobile shopping has taken off, that competitive edge is even more important. The list of Top 10 smartphone-shopping cities includes some of the usual suspects, but some cities may surprise you.

Small Biz Saturday Checklist: 10 Things to Do

One of the biggest shopping weekends is upon us. In addition to competing with Black Friday sales, you're likely hoping to reap the rewards of Small Business Saturday.

Shoppers across the country are trying to get their holiday shopping done, and many of them want to support local businesses while doing it. But before you fling open your doors, you need to make sure your store is ready for an onslaught of shoppers, in person and online.

Right before you open for business, try to take a few deep breaths. But even before that, you can take some steps to prepare yourself for a smooth day of sales.

Here's our Small Business Saturday checklist:

How LGBT-Friendly Is Your Workplace?

Under federal law, LGBT equality isn't mandated in employment practices. But that doesn't mean it's not important for your business.

The Human Rights Campaign just released its 2013 Corporate Equality Index, which focuses on how big corporations are addressing LGBT workplace-equality issues. As a small business owner whose reputation relies on how well you treat others (including your employees), you can use the Index as a guide on how to be more LGBT-friendly in your employment practices.

Even if you don't have (or don't know you have) LGBT employees, having fair and inclusive employment policies is good for staff loyalty and for avoiding potential lawsuits.

Is Extra 'Holiday Pay' Legally Required?

Forget Black Friday. More retailers are opening early on Thanksgiving this year, Reuters reports. If you're a store owner, are you legally required to pay overtime or premium "holiday" pay?

The short answer is "no." In general, private employers are not required by law to pay a special wage for work over the holidays. However, some exceptions may apply.

Under federal law, there is no special overtime rate for work performed over the holidays. This means that as a private employer, you can require that your employees work on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year or any other day while paying the same rate as you would any normal workday.

Prevent Black Friday Lawsuits: 5 Retail Tips

In recent years, Black Friday has become associated with severe discounts, amazing deals, and shopper stampedes.

You may recall that people have literally been trampled to death when stores open their doors, as MSNBC has reported. If you fail to follow some basic Black Friday safety tips, you could face a premises liability lawsuit for resulting injuries this shopping season.

Fortunately for you, most Black Friday injuries can be avoided. Here are five common mistakes you should avoid this holiday shopping season to keep your customers safe:

Papa John's Lawsuit Seeks $250M for Spam Texts

There's a thin line between creative marketing (which is good) and illegal marketing (which is obviously bad). Just ask national pizza chain Papa John's, which is fending off a $250 million lawsuit brought by a class of plaintiffs.

In the Papa John's spam case, some franchise owners used a third-party text-messaging service called OnTime4U to send out promotions, reports CNN Money. OnTime4U is also being sued.

But customers who received the text messages say they never signed up for them -- they just called to order pizza. After their orders, some got more than a dozen text messages in a row, often in the middle of the night.

Keeping Charitable Gifts Local Really Hits Home

Charitable giving is commendable, and as a small business owner with local clientele, it can get you more than just good will.

Sure there are some tax benefits, but for a business that's also part of a community, giving back to a local group or charity can come with rewards that keep on giving throughout the year.

There are many ways, and many benefits, to keeping your donations closer to home. Here are some ideas to get you started:

7 E-Commerce Errors to Correct by Cyber Monday

The holiday shopping season and "Cyber Monday" are almost upon us, so if your small business has an online store, it's time to take note of some common e-commerce mistakes to avoid.

Black Friday is still a big day for sales, but Cyber Monday is now increasingly important. Most people may head back to work on the Monday after Thanksgiving, but many are not quite ready to be doing work. If your website has a user-friendly shopping section and some good deals, it can work wonders for your bottom line.

But online shopping websites come with potential pitfalls, some of which can lead to legal consequences. Here are seven mistakes that small business owners should take care to avoid:

Don't Break the Law When Hiring Holiday Help

With holiday shoppers set to give retailers a boost, 'tis the season for hiring temporary employees.

While you may only need holiday workers for a short period of time, you still typically need to comply with the same employment laws for these temporary workers as you would for full-time employees. Otherwise, you could risk costly employment lawsuits and other consequences.

Here are five things you need to know when hiring seasonal workers, as highlighted by the Small Business Administration (SBA):

Bars, Restaurants Sued Over Background Music

Hundreds of bars and restaurants across the country are being sued for violating music copyrights with their background music.

Just about every retail establishment plays Top 40 hits and other music as a way to appeal to customers. After all, it would be kind of strange to eat a meal without any music in the background -- you'd be forced to listen to the chatter of other patrons.

But did you know that establishments have to pay to play these songs? Just because you can listen to the radio for free in your car or home, doesn't mean a business can do so without paying to obtain the proper licenses, reports the Dayton Daily News.

5 Credit Card Mistakes for Small Biz to Avoid

Credit cards can be a small business owner's best friend, but only if you don't make too many financial mistakes with them.

It can be easier to get a credit card than a loan in today's economy for a new or struggling business, but both financing options have risks. When it comes to a loan, the lender wants you to pay on time so they make an effort to help you understand the risks and benefits. But credit card companies often profit more if you don't understand the rules.

Avoiding common mistakes can be the difference between your credit card being a burden or a benefit. Below are some of the most common mistakes businesses make when they get a company card:

Launching an App? Post Your Privacy Policy

Online privacy is a big issue for regulators, which means anyone building a mobile app needs to have a privacy policy so that users know where their personal information is going.

For app makers, privacy policies are nothing new, as federal regulators have been requiring them for a while. But individual states also regulate Internet privacy by making regulations about where and how developers should post their privacy policies so consumers can be informed.

Now California is going one step further by enforcing its privacy-policy regulations. So it's time to make sure you're following the rules.

Legal to Fire a Worker Over Political Beliefs?

Is political discrimination illegal? Case in point: The Chief Diversity Officer at a Washington, D.C., college for the deaf was recently suspended after she signed a petition supporting the reversal of Maryland's same-sex marriage law.

Now groups both for and against the same-sex marriage law are coming to the Chief Diversity Officer's defense, saying that the woman should not lose her job over her political beliefs, reports

However, were administrators at Gallaudet University acting within their powers? Can an employer legally suspend or fire an employee based on the worker's political beliefs or voting preferences?

Giving Time Off to Vote May Mean Juggling Schedules

The election is upon us and that means many, if not all, of your employees are planning to vote. That could potentially mess with your schedule.

Because Election Day falls on Tuesday, citizens will be trying to make it the polls to cast their ballots -- and then get back to work in a reasonable amount of time. In some areas, polls are open early and late to accommodate people's schedules.

As an employer, it's your responsibility to give your employees time off to vote (check out the laws in your state here). But even though it's the law in most states to give time off for voting, a few conditions must generally still be met.

7 Audit Areas for Small Businesses

The IRS announced several areas it is focusing on for audits of small businesses.

The announcement comes as the IRS said it is increasing its oversight of small businesses and the reporting of taxes. The IRS believes that small businesses routinely under-report, and that this under-reporting is responsible for 84% of the $450 billion tax gap, reports the Examiner.

Below are seven areas the IRS is targeting, as compiled by the Examiner:

Winter Storms: How to Prepare Your Business for the Worst

It may only be fall but winter storms are on the horizon and now is the best time to prepare for the storm.

There's no way to avoid the snow and wind that hit much of the United States during the winter but you can minimize the impact it has on your business. Storm preparation for homeowners is a big topic but it's just as important for businesses to be ready.

You're probably not going to stock up on canned goods and candles like you would at home but there are other ways to make sure you're ready to take on the storm.