Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

January 2014 Archives

Can You Get Sued for Showing the Super Bowl?

Many businesses that plan to show the Super Bowl this Sunday don't plan on getting sued for doing it. But unless you're very careful about copyright law, the NFL's lawyers could potentially come knocking at your door.

So how can a business get sued for showing the Super Bowl?

After Target Hack, 3 Tips for Vendor Cybersecurity

Following Target's massive data breach, everyone wanted to know how it happened. We may now have an answer. It seems the Target hackers breached the chain's security systems by first using electronic credentials stolen from a vendor, The Wall Street Journal reports.

It's a cautionary tale for small business owners: Create a robust security system that extends to vendors and other interconnected business relations, or else your business could be vulnerable to a similar attack.

Here are three tips for vendor cybersecurity:

Legal to Use 'Super Bowl' in Ads for Your Biz?

Is it legal to use the phrase "Super Bowl" -- an aggressively protected trademark -- in ads for your business? What about using the words "Super Bowl" in your social media status updates?

The Super Bowl is the biggest television blitz of the year and boasts some of the best ads in the biz. This Sunday, as the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos face off in Super Bowl XLVIII, you may be tempted to get in on the intense advertising action.

But will using the phrase "Super Bowl" without permission get you tackled by the NFL's team of lawyers? Here are three situations to consider:

No Overtime for Donning Protective Gear: Supreme Ct.

Steelworkers are not entitled to overtime for time spent donning and doffing protective gear, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday.

The main question in Sandifer v. U.S. Steel : What does "changing clothes" mean?

Though many business owners may not realize it, the answer to that question carries significant compensation implications for employers.

Top 5 Tips for Your IRS 1099 Forms

For small business owners, IRS tax forms can be confusing — especially when it comes to 1099 forms.

A business’ 1099s need to be sent out by the end of January. And with the increasing nuances in forms, employers more than ever need to be on top of their tax games.

To help avoid tax penalties and blunders, here are five tips you’ll want to consider when sending out your IRS 1099 forms:

Legal to Ban Breastfeeding at Your Business?

A Victoria's Secret customer in Texas was not allowed to breastfeed in a fitting room, Austin's KTBC-TV reports. But was it legal for the store's staff to turn her away?

Customers and business owners alike are wondering whether employers can legally ban breastfeeding.

The answer to that question is generally state-specific.

Are Handwritten Agreements Legally Binding?

Here's a question business owners may be wondering on National Handwriting Day: Will handwritten agreements and promises hold up in court?

Legally binding contracts for business purposes are typically envisioned as volumes of printed paper with wax seals and signed with a quill pen. But in reality, many handwritten agreements are just as valid.

So even if your business contracts are written in crayon, here's a breakdown of the legal effect of handwritten agreements:

25 Terrible Passwords Biz Owners Should Avoid

With more businesses being hit by cyberattacks, small business owners will want to take precautions. One simple thing you can do is to avoid using the 25 most common (and most terrible) passwords that are floating around the Internet.

Password-management firm SplashData has released its annual list of the 25 most popular online passwords. These passwords make it very easy for other people to log in to your personal accounts, which puts your personal information at risk, according to the company.

So without further ado, here are the 25 worst passwords by rank, according to SplashData:

Is It OK to Hug People at Work?

National Hugging Day is upon us, which means you may be gearing up for a hugging spree at your workplace. But is it OK -- or even legal -- to hug people at work?

The answer will largely depend on the hugger, the huggee, and your company's hugging culture.

Here are five legal considerations to keep in mind:

Small Business Taxes: 10 Basic Tips for Startups

Starting a small business can be taxing, both literally and figuratively.

Figuring out your business tax obligations is one of the biggest hurdles facing small business owners. You never know when Uncle Sam is going to conduct an audit on your business, so it’s best to make sure you cover all your bases.

But with so many tax rules in place, where should you begin? Here are 10 basic tax tips for small businesses that can help keep you off the IRS’s radar:

Staffing Your Small Business: 3 Legal Concerns

Adequately staffing a small business requires careful consideration by an employer on a host of potential legal issues. Our Free Enterprise series on Starting Your Own Business is here to clarify some of the most common concerns.

For starters, business owners should focus on the nuts and bolts of staffing, such as hiring, salary, benefits, conflict management, and termination.

To begin thinking about these issues, ask yourself the following three questions:

Which Business Licenses, Permits Do You Need?

When starting your own business, it's important to figure out which business licenses and permits you need before you can legally open up shop.

Although most businesses need a federal employer identification number for tax purposes, the number of required licenses and permits needed at the state and local level can seem daunting.

So which types of business licenses or permits do new business owners need to have?

For Nat'l Hat Day: Legal to Ban Hats at Work?

It's National Hat Day! January 15th is set aside as a day to wear and enjoy any hat that tickles your fancy. But while some employees would like to celebrate the holiday by (literally) wearing multiple hats in the workplace, they may find their employers have banned hats altogether.

Is it legal to ban hats at work -- even on National Hat Day?

Incorporating a Small Business: 3 Basic Questions

If you're interested in incorporating your small business, you're likely wondering how to get started. Our Starting Your Own Business series is here to help.

A number of factors go into the incorporation process, but there are a few issues in particular that you should initially think about.

Here are three basic questions to ask yourself before you incorporate your business:

Starting Your Own Business: 5 Key Steps

Is starting a business one of your New Year's resolutions? If so, what are the first steps you need to take?

As the year opens with new possibilities, so do the opportunities for you to become your own boss by getting your own venture off the ground. FindLaw's Free Enterprise blog is here to help, with a five-part series on the legal ins and outs of Starting Your Own Business.

Today we'll begin with a general overview. While being your own employer won't be easy, completing these five key steps will have you well on your way to entrepreneurial greatness:

What Can Businesses Do to Stop Human Trafficking?

January 11 is Human Trafficking Awareness Day. And though it's a global issue, small businesses in the United States may indeed have a role to play in the effort to stop human trafficking.

While some may only associate human trafficking with sexual slavery, the term actually applies to all people who are harbored or recruited to perform labor through force, fraud, or coercion, as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement explains.

Companies are becoming more aware of trafficked people in the workplace and can take active steps to stop human trafficking.

Selling Your Small Business? 3 Legal Tips

Need some legal tips on selling your business? That's not suprising considering that the number of small businesses that were sold in 2013 increased by 41.7 percent in the third quarter.

Mergers-and-acquisitions insiders predict that the market will pick up this year, CNBC reports. With consistently low interest rates, this may be a good time to say bon voyage to your business and hello to endless vacation days.

If you're planning to sell your small business, here are three legal tips to get you started:

NLRB Won't Fight 'Poster Rule' Decisions

The National Labor Relations Board has opted not to challenge two federal court decisions that invalidated the NLRB's so-called "poster rule."

The NLRB's Notice Posting Rule sought to require businesses to post notifications reminding workers about their right to unionize. But business groups fought the rule in federal court.

Here's a breakdown of what happened and what this means for employers:

Nvidia's Crop Circle: 3 Viral Marketing Tips

The Nvidia crop circle in California that baffled countless onlookers and garnered massive national attention proves that outlandish viral marketing stunts can pay off big time.

The tech company hired world-class crop artists "to explain that our new Tegra K1 processor, with 192 graphics cores, can do things no other technology -- on this planet, at least -- could."

If you're inspired to try to a sneaky publicity stunt of your own, keep these viral marketing tips in mind:

5 Types of Employees You May Want to Fire

Troublesome employees can be a pain in an employer's side and a real impediment to business prospects, so firing them can be a real boon.

While you may hope to weed out potential troublemakers during the interview process, it may take some time for a worker to reveal his true colors. By then, giving him the pink slip may be the best solution.

Here are five kinds of employees that you may want to consider firing:

Starbucks Cease-and-Desist Targets 'Frappicino' Beer

Coffee giant Starbucks is now burning legal calories sending cease-and-desist letters to a bar that serves a "Frappicino" beer.

The Exit 6 Pub and Brewery, located in the St. Louis suburb of Cottleville, responded to Starbucks' letter with a tongue-in-cheek missive, stating that they had renamed the offending beer the "F Word," reports Slate.

While there's no lawsuit pending, what should small business owners due to protect themselves from corporate trademark muscling?

Macy's, Martha Stewart Living Settle Lawsuit

Martha Stewart's company has settled a lawsuit by Macy's over Stewart's home products deal with rival retailer J.C. Penney.

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. gave Macy's an exclusive contract to sell products from the "Martha Stewart Collection." But Stewart's company and J.C. Penney were able to find a "loophole" in the contract, CNNMoney reports.

Though terms of the settlement were not disclosed, the corporate dispute provides a teachable moment for small business owners when it comes to contract law.

5 New Year's Legal Resolutions for Businesses

The new year is upon us and your small business is brimming with potential. But with many legal issues on your mind -- like employment law questions and vendor contract concerns -- you may not know where to begin.

Rest assured, we've got five areas of improvement for businesses that could help you chart a fearless foray into 2014.

Here are five legal new year's resolutions for business owners: