Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

November 2017 Archives

Perhaps it's the holiday spirit; maybe it's the political state of the world; or it could be that you are just a generous and considerate entrepreneur. Whatever the reason, small business owners are looking for more ways to be charitable and give back to their local communities. And there's evidence that giving locally as a small business can mean getting a lot back in return.

So if you want to make sure your small business does good at the same time it does well, here are three ideas.

Alternatives to Holiday Bonuses

The holiday bonus: a not-so-subtle stocking stuffer to show your staff you appreciate all of their contributions to the company over the past year. And while a few extra bucks on their paycheck can make for some happy employees, the battle over how much the bonus should be and on what it should be based can put a damper on the holiday spirit. Plus, cash can be boring.

So how do you avoid the ubiquity and difficulty of the standard holiday bonus? Here are three alternative gifts you and your employees may find more appealing:

Did you know that Instacart shoppers went on strike on November 19 and 20? Probably not, that is, unless you read the news about it. Despite the negative press the company has gotten over the low wages that their independent contractor shoppers earn, an Insta-Shopper strike came and went without so much as a noticeable service disruption.

This is likely due to the fact that the $3.4 billion company has some pretty deep pools of contractors. It boasts hundreds of thousands of shoppers across the country. This means that for a strike to truly be effective, it would require some serious labor organization work, as well as the agreement of at least tens of thousands of the most active contractors.

For smaller startups, being that "strike-proof" may be a pipe dream, but if you rely on a large group of independent contractors, you can learn a lesson or two from Instacart.

You're starting a business because you've got some great, new ideas. So how do you protect those ideas once you're in business?

From intellectual property laws to non-disclosure agreements, there are quite a few legal options for protecting trade secrets. Here's how to know which is the right option for a particular product or idea, and which are right for your startup.

Just about every small business has some sort of Black Friday event or deal. From flash sales to door dashes to bargain bonanzas, there are myriad ways to take advantage of the nation's premier shopping holiday.

But with all this focus on consumers, make sure you don't forget about your biggest asset -- your employees. Here are three ways to take care of your employees on Black Friday.

Most entrepreneurs dream of getting their small business off the ground, and growing it into a self-sustainable enterprise. Other employees will take over the day-to-day operations and sales while you think big picture. They'll rise through the ranks, hire their own employees, and you'll be further removed from much of the work and the grind, but still sharing in the success and the profits.

Multi-level marketing puts a slightly different twist on that idea. Also known as MLM or network marketing, multi-level marketing is a sales system in which independent salespeople or distributors sell consumer products supplied by a specific company. Distributors get paid based on what they sell, and are encouraged to build their own sales force by recruiting, training, and supplying others to sell products, thereby earning a percentage of those sales. Done right, it's perfectly legal; done wrong, it's an illegal Ponzi scheme.

By now you've probably seen the infamous photo of Juli Briskman, bicycling in Virginia, casually flipping the bird to President Donald Trump's motorcade as it passed by. "He was passing by and my blood just started to boil," Briskman said after the photo went viral. "I'm thinking, DACA recipients are getting kicked out. He pulled ads for open enrollment in Obamacare. Only one-third of Puerto Rico has power. I'm thinking, he's at the damn golf course again."

That one blood-boiling moment cost Briskman her job, though, when her bosses at government contractor Akima LLC fired her days after the photo made the rounds. Was her firing legal?

There's a business saying making the rounds: Your company is only as good as your worst employee. And that is never truer than in a small business, where you don't have that many employees to begin with. So identifying, enticing, and hiring the best possible candidates is essential for small businesses.

So here are some of our best tips, questions, and answers for small business recruiting, from our archives:

One of the big new features on Apple's iPhone X is Face ID. What Touch ID did with your fingerprint, Face ID does with your face -- using facial recognition to unlock the phone, authenticate purchases, and sign in to apps. And while Face ID may make your phone less secure in the criminal law context, it might be music to the ears of employers, who won't have to worry about negligent employees mishandling their passwords.

So how might facial recognition work in the workplace? And is it time for your small business to make the upgrade?

There are all sorts of good reasons to encourage your employees to be healthy, and a lot of good ways to incentivize them. And one of the biggest battlegrounds of employee health has been cigarette use.

Smokers are loath to relinquish their habit, but they could be costing your company time and money. So is it time to start enticing them to quit by giving extra holidays to non-smoking employees?

As every employer should know by now, they have an obligation to address harassment in the workplace. But as most employers are learning, the workplace is expanding past office walls, and employee interactions, and thus the potential for harassment, are extending as well, spilling out of the office into social media.

While the First Amendment protects much employee speech on social media, what if that speech becomes threatening or makes other employees feel unsafe? What obligations does a company have to protect employees from social media harassment?

Startups and small businesses are often early adopters of cutting edge technology. And any technology that makes it easier for businesses to get paid by their customers is even more likely to get embraced by business owners.

From chip readers to cryptocurrencies, there are more alternative payment technologies than ever looking to replace cash transactions at the register. But, as with any new tech, those payment methods may carry some risks. Here's what you need to know.

When you're employing more than a handful of people, it can often be tempting to try to save a few dollars per employee, per day, whatever way possible. However, there's a difference between being more efficient and cutting legal corners. A recent federal lawsuit filed against Facebook is a good example of one big legal corner to avoid cutting.

The Facebook lawsuit alleges that the social media giant misclassified several types of employees as managers, and thus paid them as exempt employees (or more aptly, didn't pay them). Per the plaintiff's class action complaint, the company did so in order to avoid paying overtime to a large number of employees across the company. And if you think that as a small business owner, you can plead ignorance and be forgiven, you probably haven't had much experience dealing with the legal system.