Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

September 2015 Archives

In what seems like an annual occurrence at this point, the federal government is nearing another potential shutdown over budget squabbles. And while this might all sound like political wrangling to you, there are some real ways a government shutdown could affect your small business.

So what can you do to prepare? Here's how to gear up for a potential government shutdown:

Employee perks, especially at tech startups, are becoming the stuff of legend. When you have companies competing for the best and brightest by mandating paid sabbaticals, you know it's a decent time to be in the job market.

When one tech company sends its entire staff to Cambodia to work remotely for an entire month, you may wonder how your company can keep up. And if employees can work effectively from a beach on the other side of the globe, are there any limits to where they can telecommute from?

Long-time, recurring contracts are essential to small business. They allow you to focus on the quality of your product and running your business. But it's exactly because you're not paying attention to your recurring contracts that you could be paying too much.

With online banking and bill pay options, it's easier than ever to pay your bills without reading the fine print and itemized charges. Here's what you might be missing:

Volkswagen had just begun to dig itself out of a public perception hole that its cars were unreliable and expensive to fix throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. The German automaker's latest scandal may bury it for good.

VW was caught cheating on emissions tests, polluting the environment, and trying to cover the whole thing up, the trifecta of business scandals. So what can Volkswagen's implosion teach small business owners?

The "B" in B Corp doesn't stand for "business." And it most certainly doesn't stand for "bank." It stands for "benefit," as in public benefit corporation, and it means the company is as committed to social change, charity, or serving the public interest as it is to making money.

Kickstarter could've taken the path chosen by a majority of tech startups and angled for a sale, acquisition, or IPO. Instead, the online fundraiser stuck to its altruistic guns and became a B Corp.

Can Employers Limit the 2nd Amendment Rights of Employees?

You and your workers have the right to bear arms. No boss can bar employees from owning a gun. What the boss can can do is limit Second Amendment rights. This is exactly what the DA at the Nassau County Prosecutor's office has done with a new policy.

Proponents of the Constitutional right to bear arms are riled up this week after the The Washington Post reported on the New York District Attorney's no-handguns policy. In Nassau County, any employee of the DA is barred from owning a handgun, even for use at home.

If you've got a really great hire, the last thing you want to think about is that person taking an extended leave. After all, it doesn't seem to make sense to pay someone to take time away from your business.

But sabbaticals aren't just for academia anymore. Businesses from law firms to craft breweries are granting employees sabbaticals (and in some cases forcing their employees to take an extended leave). So what's the secret to offering your employees sabbaticals?

It sounds so good on paper: you've got money and resources and your partner has ideas and technical expertise. Or you both share the passion and now you want to share the business. Going into business with a partner can make your small business dream a reality.

It can also turn into a nightmare. So while a 50/50 partnership with a friend, spouse, or colleague may sound fun, you may want to rethink that plan.

Whataburger Survives PR Nightmare After Worker Denies Service to Police

A Whataburger worker in Lewisville, Texas was fired for refusing to serve two off-duty police officers, creating a public relations nightmare for the company and raising interesting questions about how to handle rogue employees. The fast food joint came under fire on Twitter after news of the employee's refusal to serve the officers circulated. Whataburger immediately responded on social media.

"We would never condone this action and this is completely unacceptable. We are working hard to address this as soon as possible." Indeed, by this morning at 9 AM the business tweeted that the employee was off the payroll and that the two officers who were refused service have been asked back so that Whataburger can "make this right."

Small businesses make hiring decisions based not just on what an employee brings to the table today, but what he or she can bring to the company in the future. We want innovators with new ideas and meaningful contributions.

So what if those good ideas are patentable? Do they belong to you or your employee? Well that all depends on what kind of agreements you have in place before the invention.

Days of Awe: Must Employers Give Time Off for High Holidays?

If you are Jewish, you are being judged for the next ten days. God has your name written in a book and will determine your fate for the year based on this period between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur -- called the Days of Awe. As such, practicing Jews try to right wrongdoings before the book is sealed.

This is serious business, a time of introspection and repentance; but God is not the only one judging. Employers are, too. Do employers have to give paid holiday time for this Jewish holiday?

In the business world, your name is everything. Ask Polaroid, Xerox, Kleenex, or Google, -- brands whose names have become synonymous with an entire product; they'll tell you exactly how important a business's name can be to their bottom line.

But you know this already, which is why you put so much time and care into crafting your small business's name. Now all you have to do is protect it. So what should you do if another business starts using your name?

What to Know Before Your Business Goes Global

Many business owners dream of international expansion, but there are important issues to consider before going global. Forays into foreign markets have all the usual problems and risks of any new business, plus cultural and linguistic challenges. And an unsuccessful international venture can be much more costly than failing at home.

Of course, nothing ventured, nothing gained, so going global also presents opportunities for profit that are otherwise impossible. To prepare for the bold step of international expansion, consider the following. If you are not daunted by these questions and suggestions, you may indeed be ready for business adventures abroad.

3 Tips for Hiring Immigrants

When police departments low on officers are turning to green-card holders to fill their ranks, you know many small businesses are doing the same. But when the White House is cracking down on hiring undocumented workers, you also know you need to be careful.

In some states, employers who hire undocumented workers could lose their business licenses, so there is even more of a burden to stay on the right side of employment laws. Here are 3 tips for hiring immigrant employees.

Let's face it -- not every small business is going to make it. And those that don't can normally claim some protection in bankruptcy, if necessary. Well, those that also don't sell marijuana, that is.

The Tenth Circuit recently held that debtors in the marijuana business can't obtain relief in federal bankruptcy court. Here's why:

With all the attention lately on paid family leave (or lack thereof), you'd think the women in positions of power would take all the time they can. Especially when one of those women instituted one of the most comprehensive paid family leave policies in the country.

But just two short years after extending paid leave for both mothers and fathers at her company, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced she would only be taking 14 short days of maternity leave following the birth of her twins. The Internet erupted, and now opinions are flaring up not about how much maternity leave women in business can take, but how much they should take.

The idea of making your dream come true and starting your own small business has been calling, but so have the doubts. Will people like my product or service? Will they like it enough for me to make money?

Starting your own small business may be a scary prospect, but it's a lot less frightening when you've got all your ducks in a row. Here's what you need to start a small business: