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Atlanta Business & Commercial Law Blog

FLSA and valid arbitration agreements

One of the biggest questions regarding Fair Labor and Standards Act’s (FLSA) collective actions and valid arbitration may have been answered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Court. This ruling, the first of its kind, determined that district courts should not send notice of a collective action to employees with arbitration agreements that are valid. The exception to this rule is when there is nothing in the agreement that would prohibit the employee from participating in a collective action.

Why the exception?

Protecting trade secrets makes them trade secrets

A federal judge in Chicago recently gave a stinging reminder to businesses that they need to protect their trade secrets. Judge John R. Thorp issued a thorough opinion on Abrasic 90 Inc., d/b/a CGW Camel Grinding Wheels, USA v. Weldcote Metals, Inc., Joseph O’Mera and Colleen Cervencik, even giving the pointers to the losing side about why they lost.

Abrasic 90 thought it had a pretty strong case after the company’s longtime president left the company to start Weldcote Metals to compete with Abrasic 90. The employee walked out the door with a flash drive containing information about the company’s suppliers, pricing and customers. In addition, he hired another Abrasic 90 employee who also brought additional sensitive information with her. Together they used this data as the basis for the new business, including customer targeting.

Is there legal recourse for bad online reviews

It used to be that businesses, particularly small businesses, counted on strong word of mouth recommendations to get the word out about products and services. These days, however, reviews from online media platforms Yelp and Foursquare are where consumers go to get recommendations. This can translate into more business when the reviews are consistently positive, but many small businesses can struggle if one bad review keeps showing up. The frustrating part for many businesses is that the review may not even be accurate, or the owner took the criticism to heart and addressed the issue long ago.

Legal tips for dealing with social media challenges

Employees exercising power on moral grounds

The traditional power structure in a company seems to be one of two different approaches. There is the top-down method where the boss or board is in charge, and there is the bottom-up structure where unions or groups of employees exercise certain powers. In the era of open office plans and flat management structures, the latter approach seems to be gaining momentum, particularly in the tech industry where innovation, speed, coordination and communication are prized.

Flexing their muscle

Tips for protecting trade secrets

Trade secrets can be in the form of a formula, device, process or information that is used by a business to earn income or generate value. The Uniform Trade Secrets Act defines trade secrets as pieces of information that have value because they are not well known and can be reasonably maintained as a secret. It is nearly always in the best interests of a business to protect trade secrets, but it is easier said than done. Here are some helpful tips to start the conversation about protecting a business’s trade secrets:

  1. Identify your secrets: This involves looking at business practices and come up with protocols to determine what needs to remain a secret. Focus on the important rather than sweeping protection that may be too broad to ensure strong protection.
  2. Label your documents: If it is sensitive information, make sure to indicate that it is “confidential” to the employees involved. Limit copies and circulation of these documents.
  3. Properly store the information: Determine where the information can be safely stored, take steps to monitor who has and who gets access to the information. Look for weak spots in that storage, whether it is computers, diskettes or hard copies.
  4. Computers need passwords: Computers containing sensitive information are lost or stolen all the time, so it is always best to utilize passwords (the stronger the better).
  5. Hold vendors accountable: This can be difficult, particularly when working internationally, but there should be strict well-considered provisions in vendor contracts. It is generally best to divide the necessary knowledge amongst different vendors to ensure that none of these partners has all the information.
  6. Set up training for employees: Educate employees about how to recognize and handle sensitive information. Hold employees accountable with clear protocols for those who do not act accordingly. Hold exit audits and recover any sensitive information, such as a work laptop.

NYC is first city to provide protections to black employees’ hair

The New York City Commission on Human Rights has now issued new legal guidance regarding black people’s hair. According to local news, employers as well as gyms, libraries, school and nightclubs cannot force people to change their natural hair as a requirement for being admitted or retain affiliation. The determination went on to say that natural black hair has nothing to do with “professionalism” or “neatness,” which seems in direct contrast to the Alabama women who refused to cut or change her dreadlocks for a new job. In the latter case, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, essentially saying that employers could do this.

Mayors wife weighs in

Does a top employee want a higher salary or better benefits?

Business owners want to know how to attract top candidates for job openings and keep their best employees from straying to competitors.

Therefore, the question arises: Do employees want higher salaries, or do they value a great benefits package more?

What every partnership agreement should include

One of the most import decisions when starting a business is determining the right structure. The right choice can mean the difference between a business's success and failure. Partnerships are the best option for many, but there are some important issues to consider and clauses that can be included to help to create a strong and binding partnership agreement. These spell out each partner's responsibilities, legal liabilities and financial obligations. While some states require the partnership agreement to be filed along with the business formation documents, Georgia is not one of them. Nonetheless, it is an important agreement that every partnership needs even when everyone is well intentioned and honest.

5 clauses that should be included

Marijuana business ends in acrimony and bankruptcy

The head of the Minnesota chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and a noted grower/activist couple are heading to court in Oregon. The couple and the man originally planned to start a legal marijuana growing operation after they separately ran afoul of authorities in other states.

The man initially loaned the couple $155,000 and put $700,000 into the partnership in 2015, but pulled the plug later in the year when he discovered that construction had not even begun on the operation and that the couple had used the money to pay off personal debts and expenses. The man alleged that the couple had defamed his name in the Portland marijuana business community. The man subsequently filed a lawsuit in early 2016, alleging several breaches of their contract, libel, slander and intentional misrepresentation. He also asked for thousands of dollars in payment of the money he had loaned them.

U.S. businesses and government go after China on IP

The Chinese government and its businesses are famously comfortable with breaking the laws involving intellectual property. Examples include cheap imitations of name brand clothing, DVDs of movies still in the theaters or stealing technological innovations used when it manufactures products for U.S. tech companies.

Therefore, critics were not surprised when federal investigators in Seattle looked into allegations of IP theft involving Chinese giant Huawei. The New York Times reports that this new case involving Huawei follows up on a civil case where the Chinese company stole IP related to a robot used by T-Mobile to diagnose quality control issues in mobile phones (Huawei is one of the world’s largest smart phone makers). A jury found the company guilty in 2017 in that civil case.

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Robert Kaufman has been selected as a 2013 Top Rated Lawyer in ‘Commercial Litigation’ as will be published in the May issue of The American Lawyer & Corporate Counsel magazine.Alex Kaufman has been selected as a 2013 Top Rated Lawyer in ‘Commercial Litigation’ as will be published in the December issue of The American Lawyer & Corporate Counsel magazine.

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