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May 2016 Archives

3 Bad Business Tips You Should Ignore

If you are in business, or just about to start one, you probably already know that there are countless resources on starting and running a successful operation. As nice as it is to get advice, you should nonetheless be careful about whose wisdom you choose to follow.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses has some guidance on guidance that can help you avoid making bad choices, even if these were recommended by someone you know or trust. Some typical tips are wrong, despite being common -- let's take a look at a few.

Lessons From the SEC: Whistleblower Office Reveals Rewards

It takes courage to blow the whistle on fraud, but it can pay off for tipsters. The Securities and Exchange Commission rewards those who come forward with valuable tips and help with investigations of market malfeasance, and this program can be instructive to indiviudal businesses.

In one week this month the agency announced three monetary awards totaling $10 million for whistleblowers. In a statement, the SEC explained why it pays so much and where the funds come from. Let's take a look.

Top 5 Small Business Intellectual Property Issues

Your business may sell tangible goods -- cars or cupcakes, say -- or it may sell services. But whatever business you are in, you will likely also have some intellectual property, meaning ideas, concepts, methods, phrases, or images which you seek to protect.

Intellectual property law governs the grant of patents, trademarks, copyright, and more. Let's consider the top five IP issues for small business.

Angel Investor David Rose Advises All Startups to Hire a Lawyer

When you start a business, there is a lot to handle and it makes sense to hire a lawyer. But many business people don't do that, thinking they will leave the little details for later, once the big stuff is set up.

That is not a good idea, according to David Rose, who is a successful serial investor and the author of The Startup Checklist: 25 Steps to a Scalable, High-Growth Business. In a review of Rose's book in Fortune, it is noted that this entrepreneur considers hiring a lawyer an important initial step in starting a business. Let's look at what he says.

Expanded Overtime Pay Rule: Are Lawsuits Coming?

Last week the Department of Labor announced expanded overtime pay for millions of middle-class workers. People who work more than 40 hours a week and earn salaries of up to about $47,000 a year will now benefit from higher pay for their added hours, up from a cap of about $23,000.

The expansion, which goes into effect in December, is meant to assist a beleaguered middle-class, hard hit by the economic downturn of the last decade. But will this end up costing businesses more than they can afford? The move seems sure to spawn added labor lawsuits. Let's consider.

3 Legal Tips for Business Name Changes

It's time to update, so you're considering a brand overhaul and a business name change. Many companies do it, both big and small.

Blackberry used to be Research in Motion until it named itself after its most popular product, while Apple Computers simply streamlined by turning into Apple. Recently, the tech giant Google grew too big for one name, adding Alphabet. So it is common and can prove profitable to change your business name. Just remember these three legal tips, plus some, for when you begin.

New Overtime Pay Regulations and Your Business

The Labor Department this week announced the expansion of overtime pay for salaried workers. This is expected to affect millions in the middle class. The Obama Administration hopes the measure will improve pay for people working over 40 hours a week on salaries of up to $47,000.

"The middle class is getting clobbered," Vice President Joe Biden said, explaining the rationale for the regulation. But already opposition is gathering on the right. Meanwhile, reports The New York Times, some business leaders predict negative consequences for workers. Let's look at what this might mean to your business.

DTSA: Employers Must Notify Workers of New Whistleblower Protection

Do you have trade secrets? What about employees or contractors? If so, you need to know that a new law is in place, the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), which requires employers to notify workers of limited immunity for disclosure of a trade secret in the context of whistleblowing.

The DTSA provides limited immunity from liability for confidential disclosure of a trade secret to the government or in a court filing, reports patent law blog Patently-O. The immunity for whistleblowers applies in state and federal and criminal and civil cases.

Yesterday the White House announced new rules expanding overtime pay protections for millions of salaried employees. Starting December 1, salaried employees making $47,476 or less will be entitled to time-and-a-half pay if they work over 40 hours per week.

The new rule is expected to impact some 4.2 million workers and scores of small businesses as well. Here's what small business owners and employers need to know about overtime rules, from the FindLaw archives.

Taxation and Representation: What Your Tax Bracket Reveals

If tax rates are determined relative to a person's income and assets, then you'd think everyone would want to be in the top bracket. The more you pay in taxes, theoretically, the more money you must be making, and owing the Internal Revenue Service a lot should be considered a sign of success.

But in reality people and businesses try to pay the least they can in taxes. For example, Donald Trump, who loves to boast about his wealth, is refusing to release his tax returns to the public or even reveal what tax bracket he is in, according to The New York Times. When asked last week, he told reporters, "It's none of your business," and admitted that he fights hard to pay very little tax. Let's consider.

After being told to ensure their drivers were not safety risks, Uber and Lyft have picked up their ridesharing app and fled Austin, Texas. The companies had spent $8-$9 million trying to pass Proposition 1, which would have exempted them from fingerprinting and performing background checks on drivers -- the same regulations under which cab companies operate.

When that lobbying effort failed, the two companies disrupted their way out of town, leaving around 10,000 drivers out of work with less than 48 hours notice. (Good thing those drivers weren't employees, or the mass layoffs may have violated the WARN Act.) So what's next for Uber, Lyft, and the city that tried to hold them accountable for rider safety?

3 Biz Tips From Bezos: Taking a Page From Amazon's Book

There is plenty of advice online for business owners, much of which you should consider with caution. But if results are evidence then you can put your confidence in the tips of Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, a multibillion-dollar-business heading for valuation in the trillions, according to CNBC.

Bezos is famous for his shareholder letters, in which he outlines his vision for the future. This vision always accommodates failure, and even expects it. Let's consider three tips from this biz whiz.

3 Legal Risks When Hiring Unpaid Interns

Internships are considered a critical aspect of professional education, and it can be a big benefit to a business to hire interns. You don't have to pay these workers and they are eager to learn.

But the more benefit an unpaid intern is to a business, the more likely it is that you should be paying this person for the work they do. There have been numerous intern lawsuits stemming from these unpaid arrangements, and because they are not employees, interns come with their own liability issues. Here are three.

Last fall, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) began investigating why there were so few female film and TV directors. Yesterday, the ACLU announced that the scope of the EEOC's inquiry had widened to include Hollywood hiring practices overall.

Melissa Goodman, director of the LGBTQ, Gender and Reproductive Justice Project at the ACLU of Southern California, revealed the EEOC is "launching a wide-ranging and well-resourced investigation into the industry's hiring practices. We are encouraged by the scope of the government's process and are hopeful that the government will be moving to a more targeted phase." So what will they find?

3 Important Legal Tips for Freelancers

If you are working for yourself already, or considering taking up freelance work, you're probably concerned about projects and not the law. But the law is part of all we do, and one of the tough things about being in charge of your own employment is that you do have to consider some important legal requirements. Let's consider these three legal issues for freelancers noted in Flexjobs.

Discrimination in the Workplace: Veteran AP Editor Sues Newswire

The Associated Press is used to making headlines, but not with its own name. But last week a bunch of other news organizations reported that the wire made news with a lawsuit filed against it by a longtime AP staff member alleging race, gender, and age discrimination. Ironically, Sonya Ross, the plaintiff, is a Race and Ethnicity Editor.

Ross has been at the AP for three decades and she is a veteran reporter with impressive credentials. She argues in her suit, however, that since 2008 she has been discriminated against, denied promotions, and worked in a hostile environment. Ross says that the hostility has worsened since she cooperated with federal authorities on an investigation of racial discrimination at the DC bureau.

Doing business with the government can have its advantages. Longer contracts more prone to renewal with a customer who pays on time are a dream come true for most small businesses.

But there are only so many local, state, and federal government entities with which to contract and competition can be fierce. So how do you qualify for government contracts and then set your small business apart? Here are three keys:

Considering the legal kerfuffle and PR nightmare over North Carolina's bathroom bill and federal protections against transgender discrimination, many businesses are wondering how to comply with both state and federal law on transgender bathroom access. Lucky for you, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released a fact sheet on how business owners can provide access in compliance with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

So here's what small business owners need to know about Title VII, transgender employees, and appropriate bathroom access:

Are Oral Contracts Ever Legal for Small Business Deals?

If you are making a deal, you should get it in writing. Sure, oral agreements can be enforceable, but there are exceptions. Many of the deals made by small businesses need to be in writing to be legally enforceable. Even if a contract can technically be made with an oral agreement, having a written record can help if the deal ever sours.

When you get things in writing and try to clarify terms to the extent possible, you can avoid misunderstandings and focus on growing your business. Let's consider some contracts basics.

Online Business Win: Louisiana's Age-Verification Law Gets Tossed

A federal judge last week ruled that a Louisiana statute requiring booksellers and publishers online to verify the age of website visitors is unconstitutional. The law is intended to protect minors from harmful materials, reports the Courthouse News Service, but the court found it violated free speech rights.

The American Civil Liberties Union called the ruling a victory for free expression, and local booksellers and publishers are no doubt breathing a sigh of relief. But you should too -- here is why the ruling means something to you even if you are far from Louisiana.

This week is the SBA's Small Business Week, so we'll be featuring legal advice for small businesses all week long. Today's topic is closing up the shop you opened -- how to sell or end your business.

Most entrepreneurs don't want to think about walking away from the companies they've founded, but that day comes for almost all of them. Whether you're moving on to the next big challenge or riding off into the sunset of retirement, the day will come when you and your small business part ways, so here's how to be prepared and to sell or end your business in the right way at the right time.

Corporation Basics: Piercing the Veil and Personal Responsibility

You did your research before going into business, so you know that incorporation protects your personal assets if your business is sued. A corporate officer is not personally liable for the actions of the business, and that is one major reason to incorporate.

This protection is called the corporate veil. But there are situations in which this veil is lifted, or pierced, and liability can attach to individuals. Let's look at examples, as described in the San Francisco Chronicle, of things to avoid doing and not doing so that you stay personally protected.

There's not a business out there, big or small, that doesn't have intellectual property issues. Patents, trademarks, and copyrights touch every aspect of business, not just the latest tech startup. So if don't have a plan to assert and protect your small business intellectual property rights, you don't really have a business plan at all.

From the idea to the Patent and Trademark Office to the courtroom, here's what your small business or startup needs to know about intellectual property:

Lawsuits, for better or worse, are a fact of business life. And just because a business is small doesn't mean it can't or won't get sued. When small businesses get sued, other small business owners take notice and try and learn from the lawsuit, because there are lessons everywhere you look.

Here are five of the biggest small business lawsuits in the news recently, and the lessons other small business owners can take away:

This week is the SBA's Small Business Week, so we'll be featuring legal advice for small businesses all week long. Today's topic is employment -- the lifeblood of your company that can turn toxic if you're not careful.

Worker protections against discrimination and wrongful termination are expanding, and wage and hour laws aren't getting any less complex. So here are a few tips as your startup or small business in advertising, hiring, and firing (with some demoting or promoting in between):

No Editorial Oversight or Staff Means No Liability for Online Publisher

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled late last month that a media company was not responsible for the copyright infringing posts of its freelance writers. If you are running an online business of any kind, creating content, or working with contractors and freelancers, you will find this case interesting.

According to Reuters, the three-judge panel ruled that was entitled to safe harbor protection for Internet Service Providers under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and, as such, was not responsible for content posted to the site by "Examiners." The ruling seems to suggest that the less responsibility a publisher takes for its content or creators, the better off it will be from a liability perspective.

This week is the SBA's Small Business Week, so we'll be featuring legal advice for small businesses all week long. Today's topic is funding -- the thing you need right after you have your big idea. There are more sources for startup capital than ever, but which is right for your business?

Here are a few tips if you're looking for startup or small business funding:

3 Tips to Perfect Your Business Plan

So you have an idea and a business plan and you're ready to roll, prepared to knock the socks off investors and rock the world with your innovation. Well, not quite.It's worth taking the time to do a business plan right because it could mean the difference between your new enterprise surviving, thriving, or dying.

A good business plan is detailed, considered, well-written, and realistic. It can serve as your roadmap, attracting investors and talent. Here are three tips, inspired by an Entrepreneur list, on what your plan should include.