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Hackensack Business and Commercial Law Blog

Class action says retailer's FCRA disclosure isn't all that clear p3

We are finishing up our discussion of the class action lawsuits filed against Michaels Stores Inc. Three suits about the company's online application have been filed in different states, and those cases have been consolidated here in New Jersey. The complaints all allege that Michaels is in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act because the required notice is not "clear and conspicuous," as required by the federal government. Rather, the disclosure is buried in a long webpage of unrelated information.

The retailer has settled with two named plaintiffs and claims, according to court documents, that all claims ended there. The plaintiffs who accepted the settlement have been replaced by other named parties.

Class action says retailer's FCRA disclosure isn't all that clear p2

Are lawyers the only ones who read the entire "terms of use" and "privacy policy" information that comes up on so many websites? Some sites even include a checkbox at the bottom of the page that must be checked before a user can proceed. Clearly, the hope is that the user will at least scan the headings while scrolling down.

Online job applications often include the same kind of information. At the beginning or the end of the application, the user must indicate that he or she has read and fully understands the privacy policy. One online job site's privacy policy is a single paragraph that is 800 words long. A friend of ours suggested that the length and complexity of the policy was intentional; it was a way to weed out applicants that didn't have the necessary stamina or attention to detail for the business.

Throwing down a green gauntlet

One place is known for selling billions of burgers. The other is known for selling quinoa burritos, salads of field greens, and menu items featuring brown rice and broccoli. What would happen if the two franchises tried to co-exist in one location, selling cheeseburgers to some customers and Buddha bowls to others?

It's a challenge the CEO of the Freshii chain has thrown down to the CEO of McDonald's. But it's not really about a Hackensack corner location; it's about changing fast food and franchising.

Employers: Beware age discrimination dressed in coded language

We recently wrote about the risks that employers face when searching for new employees. Because of anti-discrimination laws, there are certain types of questions that are illegal to include on job applications and/or illegal to ask in interviews.

Employers even need to be careful about what they include in advertisements for job openings. Certain companies - especially in the tech industry - are often accused of age discrimination because of their emphasis on hiring younger workers. The phrases they use may be coded, but to many, the meaning is clear.

Class action says retailer's FCRA disclosure isn't all that clear

In our last post, we talked about illegal interview questions. Today, we are moving on to another problem area for employers: the use of applicants' credit reports.

Three class action lawsuits against Michaels Stores Inc. have been consolidated and transferred to the U.S. District Court of New Jersey. Michaels is a crafts retailer with stores all over the country. The case came to New Jersey because the first of the three lawsuits was filed here.

Illegal interview questions: Make a list, check it twice

There are some business people who dread the hiring process. Finding the right candidate for the job is not easy. There is plenty of pressure to do it right, because hiring the wrong person will cost both time and money. Some companies, even government offices use screening software that scans submitted resumes for key words, or analyzes online applications to identify which, if any, meet the minimum qualifications.

Small businesses, however, may not have such sophisticated systems. They may not even have a human resource department. It could be contracted out, or the hiring manager could handle it. With New Jersey's relatively positive job creation and unemployment rates (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), the competition for talent gets tougher all the time.

Small businesses may not want to gamble with risk p3

We are still discussing the types of claims The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. reports as the most common and most expensive for small businesses in this country. The data is not broken down by state, unfortunately, so we cannot talk about specific risks faced by New Jersey's small businesses. Experience tells us, of course, that even robust risk management plans can miss something -- even something big, like Superstorm Sandy.

At any rate, in addition to the information included in our last two posts, The Hartford found that fire claims tied with product liability claims for cost but were more frequent at 10 percent. Premises liability is a major concern for restaurant franchisees and other businesses that cater to the public. The average customer injury or damage claim cost $30,000, though there were few claims; customer slip and fall claims were more common (10 percent) but less expensive at $20,000 on average.

Small businesses may not want to gamble with risk p2

If you own or run a small business, you are charged with being a good steward of the business' resources. You have to make purchase and hiring decisions that make sense to both short- and long-term objectives. You have to decide how to bring customers in the door and how to outdo your competitors. When it comes to overall performance of the business, you have to weigh past and present experience as you set goals for the future -- and that doesn't mean you just look at the good stuff, either.

It's your job to assess various risks to the business and then to figure out how to avoid them or how to survive them. One of the best survival tools out there is property and casualty insurance -- which we just happen to have been talking about in our April 20 post.

Why choosing the right business structure is important

Chances are that if you are reading this you are starting a business. Congratulations! Starting a business can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. After starting their own business, most people become hooked to entrepreneurship and never look back.

But while being a business owner comes with many rewards, it also comes with many risks. There are the obvious risks like losing money or not being successful, but there are also less obvious risks, like choosing the wrong business structure, that can also have negative impacts on your future.

High-end real estate transactions increasing

While the real estate market went through an extremely tough time during the collapse of the housing bubble, we are now seeing price tags for high-end residents listed at $40 million across the U.S. One real estate appraiser states such prices would have been extremely rare five to 10 years ago.

This past year there were 300 homes for sale priced between $35 million and $49 million. This is a 24 percent increase from just the previous year. The number of sales may be due to increases in global wealth since the recent recession. It’s possible that buyers are looking for hard assets. This may also be a part of a copycat effect.

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