Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

March 2014 Archives

Hiring via a Staffing Company? 3 Legal Reminders

Need to hire new workers? A staffing agency may be able to help get the job done -- but there are a few legal issues you'll want to consider first.

Some staffing agencies can place the right candidate at your firm without you having to sift through a high volume of job applications. Others will allow you to select and interview candidates, but will handle the hiring and other HR tasks so your small business doesn't have to.

However, before you sign up with a staffing company, here are three legal tips to keep in mind:

5 Questions When Hiring a Bookkeeper

Small businesses can find themselves in big trouble by hiring the wrong people, especially when it's for a bookkeeping position.

Take one Florida business that hired Dianna June Walton, a 28-year-old bookkeeper accused of skimming more than a quarter million dollars from her employer from 2010 to 2013, reports The St. Petersburg Tribune.

Want to avoid hiring a criminal or a dud? Consider these five questions when hiring a bookkeeper:

Should You Demand Proof of Cybersecurity From Vendors?

A growing number of corporations are asking their law firms to fill out lengthy questionnaires to show proof of cybersecurity measures. Should your small business follow suit?

Major corporate clients are demanding that their law firms ramp up their security and then prove that they did so, The New York Times reports.

This is a cybersecurity tactic small business owners might want to adopt -- particularly with vendors.

Supreme Court Clarifies False Advertising Law

A Lexmark competitor can proceed in suing the printer company after the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling Tuesday in a false advertising appeal.

Static Control Components Inc. sued Lexmark in federal court, alleging that Lexmark told customers that Static Controls' products infringed on Lexmark's intellectual property and that using Static Control's products was illegal, reports Reuters. Static Control had been refilling and reselling Lexmark toner cartridges to those with Lexmark printers for more than a decade.

Lexmark, however, asserted that Static Control had no right to sue under the law. How did the High Court respond?

H-1B Visas for Small Businesses: 5 Tips

Small businesses regularly struggle with H-1B visa quotas. As The Wall Street Journal explains, in the United States, the early bird not only gets the worm, it gets the coveted H-1B visa, a temporary work permit the U.S. issues to highly skilled foreign workers.

If you need to file paperwork for an H-1B visa, make sure to get familiar with the process and submit your paperwork sooner rather than later. The application period begins April 1.

For starters, small business owners should get acquainted with the following five aspects of the H-1B visa:

Bakery Hit With 'Cronuts' Cease-and-Desist Order

It may be tempting to ride the wave of a commercial craze by offering your business' own imitator, but you may run afoul of trademark law.

That's exactly what happened to a bakery in Maine that decided to sell its own version of the popular "Cronut" (a croissant-donut hybrid) and got slapped with a cease-and-desist order.

How can your business avoid selling trademarked goods?

Single Parents at Work: 3 Legal Facts for Employers

Single parents are some of the most hard-working employees at work. Although marital status is generally irrelevant in the workplace, there are legal issues relating to single parents that business owners should keep in mind.

So on this National Single Parents Day -- an observance that began with a proclamation by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 -- here are three legal facts for employers when dealing with single parents at work.

EEOC Updates 'Religious Garb in the Workplace' Guide

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued new guidelines regarding religious attire and grooming in the workplace, reminding employers and employees what's prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Every small business should take some time to review the EEOC's updated "Fact Sheet on Religious Garb and Grooming in the Workplace: Rights and Responsibilities," along with the corresponding question-and-answer guide.

As you read those items, here are six areas of concern business owners should keep in mind:

Home Office Tax Deduction Made Simple for 2013

If you use part of your home for your business, you may be able to deduct expenses for the business use of your home. The home office tax deduction is available for homeowners and renters, and applies to all types of homes.

The best part is that the IRS has now simplified the method for determining the home office tax deduction.

But do you qualify for the simplified deduction?

Can Your Business Be Sued Over a Truck Accident?

Depending on the circumstances, businesses that use trucks or employ truck drivers can be sued if there's an accident. This is especially true if the accident resulted in injuries.

But even if your business is sued, will a court hold you liable? That depends on many factors that will be unique to each individual case.

Here are some common truck accident lawsuit scenarios and a few factors that courts will consider in determing a business' potential liability:

Is It Legal to Bet on March Madness at Work?

Is your company gearing up for March Madness? After all, a March Madness office pool seems like a harmless reason to gather 'round the proverbial water cooler to swap stories -- and money.

But alas, most March Madness office pools for money are illegal.

Are you and your employees going to be hauled off to the slammer for running an illegal March Madness office pool?

Mandatory Paid Sick Leave: Good for Business?

There is no nationwide law that requires paid sick leave for private employers, but should there be?

A new survey finds nearly three out of four Americans support mandatory paid sick leave laws, and more and more local governments are approving mandatory sick leave policies.

But is mandatory paid sick leave a good idea for business?

Liability for Performing CPR on Customers?

On this Good Samaritan Day, a question for business owners: Can you face liability if you or an employee gives CPR to a customer?

Performing life-saving aid like CPR on customers may seem like the conscientious thing to do, but it may expose your company to legal risks.

Here's general overview of what you need to know:

OK to Refuse Service for Smelling Like Pot?

A barber shop owner in Colorado now has a policy of refusing service to people who smell like marijuana.

Hugo Corral of Hugo's Barber Shop in Greeley supported marijuana legalization in Colorado. But he created the anti-stink policy at his shop because the odor was driving away customers, especially those with children in tow, Denver's KCNC-TV reports.

Is it legal to refuse service to someone who smells like pot?

5 Tips for Handling Rowdy Spring Breakers

Spring Break can be a boon for many small business owners -- especially in Spring Break locations like South Padre Island or Daytona Beach -- but what happens when rowdy patrons start wreaking havoc?

Don't feel trapped by Spring Breakers, remember these five tips:

Are Commercial Drones Legal Now?

Are commercial drones legal now, after an administrative law judge struck down the FAA's rules on drones?

In an appeal over a $10,000 fine to a videographer who used a drone to make an ad, a federal administrative judge ruled Thursday that the Federal Aviation Administration's rule prohibiting commercial drones from being used was not valid, reports CNN.

So as the dust settles on this case, can businesses legally use commercial drones?

Getty's Free Images: Can Your Business Use Them?

Now that Getty Images has made 35 million of its pictures free for non-commercial use online, some entrepreneurs may be able to take advantage of the offer -- but with limitations.

One caveat to embedding the free Getty images on a website or blog is that a footer crediting Getty and a link to the company's licensing page will appear below the image, Forbes reports.

But since businesses are "commercial" by nature, can you even use the free images without violating Getty's policy?

Don't Fall for Business Website Domain Name Scam

Business owners beware: A website domain-name registration scam is catching some entrepreneurs off-guard.

But the BBB says it's easy to protect yourself from this scam, once you know how to spot it.

How can business owners avoid buying domain names from scammers?

Should Your Business Ban Google Glass?

As Google Glass becomes more of a reality, some businesses have contemplated a ban on the wearable tech.

One bar in San Francisco, The Willows, has posted a notice requiring patrons to "kindly remove" their Google Glass devices before entering, San Francisco's KCBS Radio reports. The move seems to be prompted by a need to respect patrons' privacy and comfort -- which seems to be disrupted by the presence of the recording-ready Google Glass.

Should your business ban Google Glass?

Making a Business Apology: 3 Legal Tips

As any business owner knows, mistakes happen and lessons are learned. But when is it appropriate to make a business apology?

Small business owners are often confounded by when an apology makes sense and how to go about making one.

Here are three legal tips on making a business apology:

Legal to Use Lie Detector Tests at Work?

There are many stories of former employees suing their employers, claiming they were fired after failing a lie detector test at work. And employers are dragged into costly litigation due to these claims. In light of these lawsuits, business owners may be wondering about the legality of administering lie detector tests such as polygraphs at work.

It turns out that under certain circumstances, employee polygraph tests can be legal, but there are limitations on how they can be used.