Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

April 2014 Archives

NBA Lesson for Biz Owners: How to Vote Out a Partner

The time may come for your business to vote out one of its partners, and the NBA's recent scandal may serve as a good lesson.

Donald Sterling, the Los Angeles Clippers owner who has been banned for life and fined millions over racist comments, will likely be forced to sell his team by the NBA, reports NBC Sports.

Take a lesson from the NBA: Make sure your business is prepared to vote out a partner.

Racist Comments at Work: What Can Employers Do?

When an employee or supervisor makes racist comments in the workplace, a small business can face costly legal consequences. What can employers and business owners do?

The NBA today made a decisive move: suspending Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life after an investigation found that he’d made racist comments — one of which targeted Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, Reuters reports.

What should your business do when addressing racist comments in the workplace?

Don't Use Internet Explorer, Homeland Security Warns

Security flaws in Internet Explorer have caused the Department of Homeland Security to recommend using alternative browsers.

Microsoft decided to stop offering security updates for Windows XP users earlier this month, and those who haven't upgraded will potentially be vulnerable to hackers when using Internet Explorer, even after the vulnerability is fixed, Reuters reports.

Why does Homeland Security think Internet Explorer is so dangerous?

Can Small Business Workers Unionize?

With even college football players moving to unionize, small business owners may be wondering: Can my workers unionize too?

Here's a basic legal breakdown of when small business workers can unionize:

Disabled Worker's Telecommuting Lawsuit Can Proceed

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has been allowed to proceed in its lawsuit against Ford Motor Company for denying a disabled worker's request to telecommute.

The EEOC sued Ford on behalf of Jane Harris, a resale steel buyer at the company, for not reasonably accommodating her under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), according to Job Mouse.

While the EEOC's case was unsuccessful in a lower court, a federal appeals court is giving it another chance to litigate.

5 Intern Interview Questions for Small Businesses

Internship season is fast approaching, making now a good time for business owners to start brainstorming potential intern interview questions.

Your interview questions should elicit responses that will give you a sense of a would-be intern's thought process, level of professionalism, and ability to perform under pressure. Such traits can help stave off interns who could expose the company to legal liability.

Here are five intern interview questions that may work for your business:

Can Cyber Insurance Pay Off for Your Business?

Cyber insurance shouldn't be foreign to small business owners, and it can potentially keep your homefront secure.

More and more, companies are turning to cyber insurance policies to safeguard their online reputations. From mom-and-pop shops to big corporations, CNBC reports that cyber insurance is helping businesses insurance against cyberattacks and other online threats.

What do you need to know about cyber insurance to make it work for your business?

7 Tips for Take Your Daughter/Son to Work Day

This Thursday is Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work Day.

This annual holiday seeks to strengthen the connection between parents and children when it comes to work and education.

Here are seven tips to keep in mind when preparing your office for the holiday.

For Earth Day: 5 Environmental Tips for Businesses

Happy Earth Day! Business owners who "go green" are not only helping the environment, but they can also reap financial rewards.

From tax incentives to energy saving methods to help businesses save money, business owners should consider helping out Mother Nature.

So here are five environmental tips for businesses.

Top 5 Tips for Effective Staff Meetings

Staff meetings are a great way to brainstorm new ideas for the business and do a round-up of the current happenings in the company. How can you make them more effective?

In order to facilitate a good meeting, there are a few things business owners can do to make the most out of the session.

So rather than making a staff meeting something employees dread, here are five tips for effective staff meetings:

General Mills Nixes 'Clickwrap' Arbitration Terms

General Mills has nixed its controversial legal terms which potentially would have forced consumers into arbitration for "liking" the company online.

After less than a week of worried consumers raising questions about the cereal titan taking away their rights to sue, General Mills took down its newest legal terms on Saturday night. The company decided to go back to its original online legal terms, citing that their new policy was "widely misunderstood, causing concerns among our consumers," reports The New York Times.

Will this General Mills flap serve as a warning for other corporations using "clickwrap" agreements?

Lululemon Yoga Pants Lawsuit to Be Dismissed: Judge

Lululemon executives can breathe a sigh of relief now that a federal judge intends to dismiss a lawsuit brought by investors over quality-control issues with its yoga pants.

Some of the investors' legal claims against Lululemon included failing to disclose that its black Luon yoga pants were "too sheer" and "falsely touting its quality control," Reuters reports.

So what can small businesses learn from the Lululemon lawsuit?

5 Legal Tips for Allowing Pets at Work

It's becoming more commonplace for businesses to allow employees to bring pets to work.

Some studies have shown that employees who bring their dogs to work experience lower levels of stress-causing hormone cortisol, according to USA Today. Other people simply think having their pets around makes the workplace more enjoyable.

But before you allow pets at work, here are some legal tips to consider.

Can Facebook 'Likes' Block Business Lawsuits?

If consumers "like" your brand or business, does that mean they won't be able to sue you?

That's what cereal giant General Mills is attempting to do, by forcing those who "like" them on Facebook, enter sweepstakes, or download coupons to agree to arbitration instead of suing in civil court for any potential legal disputes. The New York Times suggests that even purchasing General Mills products might impose "forced arbitration" on consumers.

Can a similar arbitration policy keep your company's fans from suing your business?

7 Tips for Negotiating a Pop-Up Store Lease

Pop-up stores can be a great, low-cost option for businesses that are just getting started. But much like signing a long-term retail lease, pop-up business owners might need to do some negotiating.

Pop-up store owners in Detroit are learning this first-hand, as many have been testing out the market by renting out small, unused retail spaces for short time periods, according to The New York Times.

So if you're thinking about signing a lease for a pop-up store, here are seven tips that may come in handy for your lease negotiations:

US Airways' Porn Tweet: 5 Lessons for Businesses

US Airways received an online beating Monday for a tweet that took off and went viral: a pornographic picture posted to Twitter in response to a customer's complaint.

After the customer tweeted @USAirways complaining of a flight delay, the company's social media team attached a NSFW photo of a naked woman aiming a model jetliner toward her private parts. US Airways is calling the incident a "mistake," but it will not be firing the employee responsible, reports Forbes.

Worried about your company's own turbulent tweets? Keep these five lessons in mind to avoid any similar social media snafus:

Should Your Business File for Bankruptcy?

Should your small business file for bankruptcy? If you find yourself asking this question, you're not alone.

Filing for bankruptcy doesn't necessarily mean throwing in the towel. On the contrary, it may just mean a fresh start for you and your business.

Here are five factors to mull over when deciding if your business should file for bankruptcy:

5 Ways to Lower Your Small Business' Tax Rate

For Tax Day, here's something for small business owners to consider: Your business could be paying much less in taxes by taking some tips from big corporations.

Some of America's most profitable companies like Apple and Microsoft have effective tax rates lower than 30 percent, as Forbes points out.

So what can you do to effectively lower your small business' tax rate? Here are five ideas that may pay off for you:

Woman Sues Subway Over 'Big Mama' Insult

Fast food chain Subway is being sued by a California woman after an employee wrote "Big Mama" on one of her orders.

Allison Brown, 45, of Murrieta, took the Subway employee's message as an insult. It caused her to "[break] down crying" and to seriously question her appearance, according to Jezebel.

So can businesses be sued for allegdly being rude to customers?

When Can a Bar Charge a Patron Extra for Drinks?

A San Francisco bar is being temporarily shut down for doing something seemingly harmless: charging extra for drinks.

But Dimples Cocktail Lounge isn't being shuttered for 45 days just for raising prices. The bar was charging a surcharge for the personal company of its female servers, reports San Francisco's KPIX-TV.

So when can bars charge a little something extra for their drinks?

Business Lessons From Katherine Heigl's Lawsuit

One of the worst things that can happen to a business is to get caught up in a high-profile lawsuit with a celebrity.

Just ask lawyers and PR managers for Duane Reade, the drug-store chain that's being sued by actress Katherine Heigl for allegedly misappropriating her image on Twitter and Facebook, The Associated Press reports.

While business owners may be eager to boast that celebs use their products or shop in their stores, what legal lessons can you learn from Heigl's lawsuit?

5 Patent Application Mistakes You'll Want to Avoid

Patent applications can make or break the financial and legal security of your business, so it's important not to make mistakes.

As we mark 224 years since the Patent Act of 1790 was enacted -- setting forth the first patent statute in U.S. law -- try not to make these five common patent application mistakes that may send you back to the drawing board:

Can You Get Out of a Franchise Agreement?

Can you legally get out of a franchise agreement?

Buying a franchise may seem like a great business opportunity, but there are a few situations that may warrant the termination of a franchise contract.

Although it's best to talk to a business and commercial law attorney about any issues that arise, here are a few ways you may be able to get out of your franchise agreement:

'Heartbleed' Flaw: What Businesses Need to Know

A newly discovered security flaw called "Heartbleed" has many businesses scrambling to beef up their online security.

The Heartbleed flaw affects websites that use a security software called OpenSSL to protect users' data and passwords. As The Washington Post explains, sites vulnerable to the flaw are like doors with defective locks. No matter how much consumers change their passwords, if the "lock" is broken, user data is vulnerable.

So what does your business need to know about the Heartbleed flaw?

Why Can't Google Trademark 'Glass'?

Google has unsuccessfully been trying to trademark the word "Glass" for its hip tech toy Google Glass, but the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has denied all attempts.

The product's name, "Google Glass," has already been successfully trademarked by Google, but the tech company is struggling with the slightly more succinct "Glass," reports The Huffington Post.

Why is "Glass" difficult for Google to trademark?

Do Obama's Executive Orders on Wages Affect You?

President Barack Obama signed two executive orders Tuesday to require federal contractors to let their workers to discuss wages more openly and to require contractors to submit detailed data to the government about how they compensate workers.

The purpose of the executive orders, which the president signed on National Equal Pay Day, is to try and bridge the wage gap between men and women, according to The Washington Post.

So what do the orders mean for your business?

Gay Wedding Photo Case Denied High Court Review

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a New Mexico case over whether a business can refuse to serve gay and lesbian customers, leaving the New Mexico Supreme Court's decision intact.

In August 2013, the New Mexico High Court ruled that a wedding-photography business that offered its services to the general public could not, under New Mexico's anti-discrimination laws, refuse to serve clients because they are gay -- even if that refusal is based on religious beliefs.

With the U.S. Supreme Court avoiding the issue, many business owners may wonder how the New Mexico decision will affect their business practices.

Cole Haan Pinterest Contest Spurs FTC Warning

Fashion brand Cole Haan landed in some hot water for a Pinterest contest when it received a letter from the FTC alleging violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

The FTC interpreted the pins as endorsements for the company's "Wandering Sole" contest and dinged Cole Haan for not clearly communicating that there was a financial incentive to win a shopping spree.

So what can small business owners learn from Cole Haan's FTC warning letter?

5 Legal Tips If You're Opening a Pet Store

For animal lovers looking to open up a neighborhood pet store, what are some legal tips you should keep in mind?

Unlike a typical retail store that sells clothes or toys, owning a pet store requires that you take care of live animals.

So here are five tips to keep in mind if you're opening a pet store:

Congress Talks Bitcoin, Small Business: 3 Tidbits

Congress held a hearing on Bitcoin and small businesses Wednesday. Though no action was taken, the discussion could impact the virtual currency and businesses that currently accept it (or are considering it) for payment.

In case you're still in the dark, Bitcoin is the world's first decentralized, peer-to-peer virtual currency. This means that it's not backed by any banks, credit card companies, or governments, according to The Washington Post.

So before you get on board with Bitcoin, here are three tidbits to ponder from the House Committee on Small Business' Bitcoin hearing:

Is More Workplace Transparency Good for Business?

Small business owners with an eye on morale may need to increase their workplace transparency.

Transparency can be difficult to master, and Forbes notes that for many companies, the balancing act is too tough to even pursue. But according to a recent poll by People Driven Performance, 71 percent of employees feel they're in the dark about company goals and plans.

Can your business boost morale and productivity by being more transparent?

7 Lawsuit Settlement Tips for Business Owners

If your business is sued, should you settle? The vast majority of lawsuits are resolved before trial, but there are many factors a business owner needs to consider before making an initial settlement offer.

Not only can a settlement be much less costly than going to court, it can also be a way to protect your business' reputation. Still, choosing to settle a lawsuit is not a decision to be taken lightly.

If you're thinking about settling, here are seven tips to keep in mind:

5 Tips When Drafting a Web Design Contract

Almost every business needs a website, and Web design is one of many jobs that a small business owner can easily outsource.

But with an army of potential Web designers vying for the job, you'll want to keep these five tips in mind when drafting a Web design contract:

Commercial Leases: Is a 'Right to Relocate' Valid?

When signing a commercial lease, a "right to relocate" clause may strike you as odd, or even a bit unfair. Is such a clause even enforceable?

Generally speaking, "right to relocate" clauses in commercial leases are legally valid, but there are certain things business owners can do to protect themselves when reviewing and negotiating a lease, and in situations when a landlord uses the clause to force you to relocate.

Here's what business owners need to know: