Feb 03 2014

Personal Guarantees

A big mistake that new businesses make is that they sign anything that a vendor or supplier gives them – they don’t look at it, and they don’t take the time to ask for an attorney’s help. They either fear that they cannot delay, or they cannot afford an attorney. However, when that business starts to get in trouble, it’s the business owner who gets sued. That’s when it turns out that one of the papers signed was a personal guarantee.

A lot of vendors and suppliers are reluctant to give a new business any credit without a personal guarantee. That doesn’t mean that you should sign it, or that you shouldn’t try to renegotiate it. If you can afford to make purchases cash-on-delivery in the beginning, then you can build up some credit with the suppliers.

Once you’ve been in business for a while, and have built up a reputation for making payments on time, you can also attempt to renegotiate your vendor agreement. By renegotiating the personal guarantee away, then you can protect yourself in case there is a problem later. You may still find yourself in court – but being able to produce documentation showing that the personal guarantee has been voided will be able to help you.

Contracts are not static documents – they can be modified throughout the life of the agreement. If you have personal guarantees, then it may be time to look into modifying them.

Dec 31 2013

New York Minimum Wage Increases Today

Just a reminder that today, 12/31, is when the New York Minimum Wage increases to $8.00 per hour.

Dec 16 2013

New York Minimum Wage Poster Change

With the increased minimum wage in New York, the Minimum Wage Poster will change, and a new poster should be hung as close to December 31st as possible (ideally on the first business day after). The New York Department of Labor makes all of its posters available free of charge and a link to the PDF of the new poster is here.

Dec 12 2013

What Are the Boundaries of a Non-Solicitation Agreement?

An interesting case out of Massachusetts raised some questions about what an employee subject to a non-solicitation agreement can do. The employee announced her new position on her LinkedIn profile, and her former employer sued because among her followers were some of her now-former clients. The employer argued that this posting solicited her clients to come do business with her.

The court in this case was able to make a ruling based on other issues, and did not have to get into the LinkedIn issue. However, it put both employers and employees on notice – announcements on social media (be it LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter) can violate agreements and should be carefully considered. For employees, whenever you leave a job to start a new one, you should review any restrictive covenants that you signed (non-compete agreements, non-disclosure agreements, and non-solicitation agreements) to see what you are able to do. If there are limits on your ability to make public announcements, or if you have followers who are in a restricted group (either now-former co-workers or clients of the previous company), you may want to restrict the announcement to ensure that only people who can see your new job are able to. It will take you more time to set up, but it will be time spent saving yourself from a lawsuit.

Dec 11 2013

Minimum Wage Increase Update

On December 31, 2013, New York’s Minimum Wage will increase to $8.00 per hour. As of the last day of the year, any employee must make at least that amount. Waiters and other food service tipped employees see no change in their base amount, as the tip credit will increase with each change in the minimum wage.

On January 1, 2014, Florida’s Minimum Wage will increase to $7.93 for non-tipped employees. This is part of Florida’s annual readjustment of the minimum wage based upon inflation. As the Florida tip credit remains the same, the direct wage that employers must pay tipped employees will increase to $4.91.

Dec 10 2013

It’s Important that You Make Your Wishes Known

Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic has a controversial blog. One of his recent posts talked about the pain that he saw his father going through. It is a conversation that we have with our clients quite often. A document appointing a health care proxy is not enough, nor is a living will. It is important to have both documents – it is also possible to have one document, an usually called an Advance Medical Directive, which incorporates both.

When choosing someone to make decisions on your behalf, a person called a health care proxy, like the form, it is important that your chosen proxy can follow your wishes. Will the proxy be able to tell the doctor not to put you on life support, or not to attempt to bring you back, if there is a problem? Not all family members can make those decisions. It is a difficult thing to do. It’s important that before you choose your health care proxy, you have a discussion with him or her.

It’s also important that you know exactly what you want and how you want your care to be handled. A good health care proxy will leave instructions with details about what you do, or do not, want. You should communicate your wishes to your attorney.

New York State’s Department of Health has a page of information about health care proxies, as well as a form that you can download and complete. If you do not have a health care proxy, you should take the time to complete one soon.

Dec 04 2013

What We Learned from the Adobe Password Breach

It’s now been pretty-well dissected that Adobe’s security breach has resulted in some 50 million accounts being exposed. A list of the top fifty passwords by use has been posted by security experts as well. (You can also attempt to complete crosswords based upon the 1,000 most common passwords). The fallout is proving to be massive, and the results of the breach will likely continue to be felt for some time.

To date, some other companies (such as Facebook) have required users who may be affected to change their passwords, in order to minimize the damage and expose users’ other accounts. It is still unclear how many other accounts the hackers were able to access but there is a high risk. Because people use the same password for many sites, getting access to one sites’s passwords means that you will be able to get access to multiple sites for that person.

If you were affected, then we recommend changing your password for any site that shared your Adobe password. However, it is important that you make a note of your password changes somewhere as well. As we have said before, if you don’t leave your passwords somewhere, then it will make it harder for people who are taking care of your affairs. Saving your passwords is actually a relatively easy task.

The first way is to simply write all of your passwords down on a piece of paper. As part of our estate planning package, we provide clients with a Document Location and Information Packet; one of the pages of this packet is a page that can be photocopied as many times as is necessary and simply lists account information (site, username, password). For some sites, such as banking sites, you should also list your security questions – if the bank does not recognize the computer or the IP address that is attempting to log in, then it will ask for this information.

Another way is to use password software. KeePass and PasswordSafe are two of the biggest ones. These programs let you keep all of your passwords on your computer (or in the cloud, depending on whether you pay for the service, or the options enabled), or on your phone, and secured by a master password. The programs will also generate theoretically secure passwords as well. These programs will also run off of a flash drive.

You should be careful about where you use your passwords. If you aren’t sure that you can trust the site, then do not use a common password for it. Some security experts recommend using base passwords but modifying the end (so if your base password is “Timmy1″ then for LinkedIn it might be “Timmy1In” or for e-mail it might be “Timmy1Ma”) but that system has risks as well. For an interesting perspective on better passwords, this XKCD comic is worth a read.

Dec 02 2013

Holiday Parties Require Extra Caution for Employers

Chanukah is in full-swing, and some companies and organizations are hosting their holiday parties already. The rules that govern liability don’t take an afternoon off, and hosts of these parties expose themselves to any number of problems if they aren’t careful. Employers who plan to hold holiday parties for the company should be mindful of the following tips.

  • If you are going to serve alcohol, you must be willing to cut employees off. Having a limited drink selection is also smart. Employees who get drunk may make bad decisions, and the company may find itself liable if no one in management stopped the employee from drinking.
  • Have a car service ready. One of those bad decisions that an employee might make is to drive drunk. The potential liability for the company here can be incredibly high. The risk is simply not worth it.
  • Make sure that there is an enforced code of conduct. Sexual harassment laws do not stop because there is a party and employee holiday parties are ripe ground for unwanted advances that can lead to complaints. Make sure that your employees understand what is and is not permitted.
  • Skip the mistletoe decorations. Sierra Mist is running a radio ad where a male employee solicits kisses using a can of their new soda. It makes me cringe every time I hear it because that employee’s conduct is going to cost the company money. Keep the decorations neutral and you can avoid complaints which cost time, and lawsuits, which cost money.
  • Management must be willing to be “party poopers.” Nobody wants to ruin a good time, and it can be hard to enforce the rules when there’s music playing, dancing, and a buffet. However, the company’s management is still management, and if they aren’t taking an active role in solving problems, then they are part of the cause. It is important that managers understand what they need to do, and how to proactively address potential issues.

It’s a party and I’m not suggesting that the top-level officers patrol the dance floor to make sure that everyone is standing at least eight inches from each other and that no one has had more than two drinks. But what I am suggesting is that parties take a little more planning now than they have in the past. It’s worth taking that little bit of extra time to protect your company later.

Nov 03 2013

Make Sure Your Employees Have Time To Vote

Election Day is this coming Tuesday (November 5). Employers are supposed to ensure that their employees have enough time to vote. Employees who gave notice by Sunday (Friday was the last working day) are entitled to up to two hours off with pay to vote. The two hours come either at the beginning or the end of their shift.

This only applies to employees who must be at work within 4 hours of polls either opening or closing. Polls open at 6AM and close at 9PM.

Nov 01 2013

Legal Recap – Week Ending 11/1/13

As a new feature, each week, we will share legal articles and updates from around the country that may have an impact on our clients.

Conde Nast Ends Its Internship Program - As more of the larger companies are being sued for not paying their interns, more of these companies will decide that the risks are no longer worth the benefit. If you have unpaid interns in your office, this may be something to think about.

EBay Settles Class Action - If you were selling on eBay, you may be able to take part in the settlement.

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