Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

September 2014 Archives

La. Restaurant Offers 10% Discount for Gun Toters

Guns don't kill people, they give you 10 percent off your Cajun sausage order. At least when you visit Louisiana-based Bergeron's Boudin and Cajun Meats, that is.

This local eatery started giving armed customers 10 percent off their orders a few weeks ago, and according to Port Allen's WVLA-TV, it's been "a hit." Kevin Cox, Bergeron's owner, is bucking the trend of private businesses barring guns by welcoming those who slap iron to a discounted meal.

Does Cox have the right idea with his gun-toting discount?

Is It Legal to Fire a Worker for Running for Office?

With election season approaching, your may have employees who are running for local, state, or -- who knows? -- even national office.

While many employers encourage their employees to get involved politically off the clock, in some cases, an employee's political campaign can become an unwelcome distraction or even a potential conflict of interest.

In cases where an employee's political aspirations begin impinging on his professional obligations, is it legal to fire a worker for running for office?

Don't Route Vendor Payments to Scammers, BBB Warns

The Better Business Bureau has issued an alert to business owners about a new scam targeting business vendor payments.

This scam is particularly easy to miss, reports the BBB, because unlike many other business scams which rely on selling business owners fake or useless products and services, this latest scam uses the names of real vendors that the targeted companies already do business with.

How does the scam work, and how can you avoid being taken for a costly ride?

FTC Focuses on Fine Print in 'Operation Full Disclosure'

The Federal Trade Commission is ramping up efforts to enforce its fine-print disclosure guidelines for television and print advertising.

As part of an aptly titled new initiative dubbed Operation Full Disclosure, the FTC sent warning letters to more than 60 companies that failed to make proper disclosures in their advertising.

What prompted the letters and what are the FTC's rules on fine print in advertising?

False Endorsements in Ads: What Can Happen to a Business?

Endorsements, particularly those by celebrities, athletes, or other well-known figures, are a classic form of marketing.

But what if your marketing budget doesn't allow for extravagant spending on celebrity endorsements, or your product is too little known or too new to have garnered organic positive customer feedback? For some business owners -- such as the California lawyer recently suspended for Photoshopping herself into pictures with celebrities and posting the pics on her website -- the plan seems to be: fake it until you make it.

Unfortunately, the only thing that using false endorsements in your business tends to make is trouble.

3 Business Lessons From Babe Ruth's Employment Contract

The legendary Babe Ruth had an employment contract like any other employee, but his had a few extra conditions you might not have considered.

A 92-year-old contract between the New York Yankees and George Herman "Babe" Ruth is up for auction, and it reveals some interesting bits about the strings attached to his career. TMZ Sports reports that the Great Bambino was paid $52,000 per season, but he couldn't "stay up later than 1 o'clock A.M." without "permission and consent of the club's manager."

Here are three lessons your business can take away from Babe Ruth's careful contract:

Can Domestic Violence Training Pay Off for Your Business?

You might consider what your employees do on their own time their own business. But when it comes to domestic violence, providing your employees workplace training can pay off both at home and at work.

For a dramatic example of how domestic violence at home can effect business, one can look to the NFL, where a rash of recent off-the-field incidents -- including video footage of a player hitting his wife and allegations of child abuse against another player -- have overshadowed the league's first three weeks of regular season play. Last week, the NFL announced that all NFL team personnel and staff would be required to undergo training on prevention of domestic violence.

Can the same kind of domestic violence training pay off for your business?

1 in 10 Employees Went to Work Stoned: What Can Employers Do?

According to a new survey for the website Mashable by online survey company SurveyMonkey, almost one in 10 workers reports having gone to work high on marijuana.

For employers, stoned employees means potentially lower productivity as well as increased potential liability for accidents caused by an employee who is high on the job.

But what can you do about employees who show up high? Here are five possibilities to consider:

Home Depot Data Breach: 56M Payment Cards May Be Affected

Home Depot announced a data breach earlier this month but provided few details. On Thursday, the company announced the breach may have affected as many as 56 million payment cards.

The breach is being blamed on malware that was present in the store's registers from April to September, though the malicious software was confirmed as eliminated on Thursday, reports Business Insider. During these five vulnerable months, tens of millions of unique payment card credentials were at risk, and the customers holding those cards may want answers.

What can your business learn from this Home Depot breach?

Video-Recording Employees Can Pay Off, but Legal Worries Remain

As a business owner, should you video-record your employees?

Employers may wonder how their employees might act if they knew they were being watched at all times. It may sound like a heavy-handed science fiction premise, but companies might actually benefit from having cameras recording their employees. Some recent studies have found that when employees knew they were being watched, misconduct (like employee theft) fell, while sales and productivity increased.

However, a business can get itself into real legal trouble by recklessly recording its workers.

Drug Testing After Work Injuries: 5 Legal Tips for Employers

When an employee is injured on the job, demanding the injured employee submit to a drug test may prevent an employee whose was intoxicated at the time they were injured from claiming workers compensation benefits.

Unlike drug testing job applicants, however, drug testing employees isn't always legal. But when an employee is involved in a workplace accident and you have a reasonable suspicion the employee may be under the influence, you may typically require that worker to submit to a drug test.

How can you make sure your post-accident drug-testing policies and procedures are legally sound? Here are five tips:

Ben & Jerry's Signs Gay Marriage Amicus Brief; Should You?

Ben & Jerry's has stepped definitively into the gay marriage debate by signing on to an Employers' Amicus Brief to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Much like a formal legal petition, the amicus brief states various legal reasons why the High Court should take on the issue of gay marriage and once and for all lay down a consistent rule for same-sex marriage. Ben & Jerry's now joins dozens of other well-known corporations that have signed on to this Employers' Amicus Brief.

Should your company be next to sign?

5 Tips for Making Your Business' Fitness Center Really Work Out

Corporations should be worried about their employees becoming sedentary and unhealthy, and the solution in many cases has been to add a fitness center to the business.

But making effective use of a corporate fitness center doesn't just mean slapping together some ellipticals and barbells in your break room, your business needs the legal underpinning to make it a success. Done properly, Forbes reports that "fitness centers can become a profit center as well as a retention amenity."

Here are five tips for making your business' fitness center work out for you:

Starting a Business in School: 5 Legal Tips for College Entrepreneurs

Following the success of Google, Facebook, Snapchat and other high-tech companies originally started by college entrepreneurs, college campuses continue to churn out innovative and lucrative new businesses.

College entrepreneurs are certainly full of game-changing ideas and industry-disrupting business models. However, they may not be quite up to speed on how to legally protect their newfound business interests. This can come back to bite budding businesses big-time in the form of future litigation, such as the lawsuit filed against Snapchat by an ousted co-founder, settled last week for an undisclosed (but likely substantial) sum.

What legal tips should college entrepreneurs bear in mind? Here are five to consider:

Calif.'s Paid Sick Leave Law Takes Effect in 2015

A new law signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown will require most employers to give workers at least three paid sick days a year.

The governor's signature on the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 will provide paid sick leave to over 6 million workers starting in July 2015, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Here's what California business owners need to know:

Do Your Storefront's Steps Violate the ADA?

Businesses with storefront steps may be worried about ADA liability, but a recent federal court case suggests that steps aren't necessarily a problem.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that the popular teen clothing store Hollister, with its beach-property-style stepped entrances, did not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to The Denver Post, the court ruled 2-1 that because Hollister provided alternative entrances for the disabled, its stores did not violate the ADA.

What should business owners do about steps in their storefront entrances?

Top 3 Legal Tips for Freelancers

With the job market tighter than ever, more and more Americans are turning to freelancing as a way to put their skills to use.

According to freelance worker advocacy group the Freelancers Union, a recent survey found that 53 million Americans are freelancing, working as independent contractors for clients as a "small business" of one. But along with unique benefits -- such as scheduling flexibility, being able to choose the projects you work, and being your own boss -- there are also several legal issues that freelancers in particular should be aware of.

Here are three legal tips for freelancers to follow:

FedEx Loses 'Contractor' Case: 3 Lessons for Employers

An increasing number of companies, both big and small, are using contractors to fill positions that would traditionally have been held by full-time employees.

While this may provide benefits in the form of saved time and money, using contractors can also pose a significant risk if done improperly. FedEx found this out this hard late last month, when a federal appeals court ruled that thousands of delivery drivers the company had claimed were independent contractors were actually employees, meaning the company may be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid overtime.

How can you avoid the potential pitfalls of hiring contractors? Here are three legal lessons for employers from the FedEx case:

What Is a Public Benefit Corporation?

"Public benefit corporations" may sound like charitable organizations, but they're actually a great way for small businesses to make a difference while staying in the black.

Take the Curious Iguana bookstore as an example. It opened last September in Frederick, Maryland, under the state's benefit corporation statute, choosing to hold itself to strict standards of charitable giving, environmental impact, and employee welfare, reports Southwest: The Magazine.

Where else is this type of corporate structure available, and what are the benefits of your small business becoming a "public benefit corporation?"

Remembering Joan Rivers: 5 Lessons for Business Owners

With the death of comic and pop-culture stalwart Joan Rivers, many are mourning the loss of her quick wit and fearless comedic style.

But along with a healthy supply of laughs, Rivers' winding path to stardom and ability to remain in the limelight well into her twilight years can also provide a number of lessons for those who are seeking their own path to success.

Here are five lessons business owners can learn from Joan Rivers:

In Yelp Extortion Lawsuit, Calif. Business Owners Lose

A handful of California business owners were dealt a legal loss in federal court this week on their class-action Yelp extortion lawsuit.

A veterinary hospital, a dentist, an auto-body shop owner, and a furniture restoration store owner had joined in a class action suit against Yelp, claiming the online service had violated California's unfair business practices law and had extorted them, reports Courthouse News Service. The business owners claimed that Yelp manipulated the appearance of positive or negative reviews in order to pressure the employers into purchasing advertising through its site.

Why did their Yelp extortion suit flop in federal court?

Wage Theft Lawsuits On the Rise: 5 Tips for Business Owners

As a business owner, you likely do everything you can to discourage employees from stealing from your business.

Increasingly, however, employees are applying the same scrutiny to employers by filing so-called wage theft lawsuits against employers who fail to properly compensate them for their work. These lawsuits, including recent suits against large employers such as McDonalds and Walmart supplier Schneider, typically involve violations of minimum wage and overtime laws, reports The New York Times.

How can you stay clear of a potential wage theft lawsuit? Here are five tips:

After Labor Day: 3 Employment Law Changes You May Need to Address

As employees (slowly) return from their Labor Day holiday weekends, employers may be thinking about goal-setting for the rest of the year. Among the things you should never neglect are changes to employment laws that may require some sort of action by business owners.

To prevent your business from getting caught with its proverbial pants down, employers will want to keep these three kinds of employment law changes in mind:

What Happens If Your Business Becomes Illegal?

You have a great idea for a business. You may even have found a great location. Everything's going great until your local, state, or even federal government passes a law making your business illegal.

Although the last thing that small business owners need is something new to worry about, changes in the law can have an effect on your business. This is especially true in new or emerging areas of commerce, as those looking to capitalize on Washington State's new marijuana legalization laws are finding out the hard way.

So what can you do if your business becomes illegal?