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Napa, CA 94559

Many happy returns?

I didn’t get what I wanted for the holidays. Are stores required to accept my return? What if the store doesn’t have a return or exchange policy? Most retailers offer refunds, store credit or exchanges when a consumer wants to return an item. However, California law does not require retailers to offer refunds or exchanges, […]

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Holiday donations–what’s your responsibility?

I’m a store owner and someone approached me recently about putting a donation box near my register for holiday donations. Am I responsible for protecting a food or toy box’s contents from theft or damage? I want to help, but don’t want liability for a charitable act. Placing a donation box by the cash register […]

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Here’s a Tip

I own a restaurant and I’m not sure what to do with the tips that my servers receive. Do I need to keep track of their tips? If a customer uses a credit card, can I subtract the credit card processing fee from the tip? What about tip pooling? Money that customers pay, give or […]

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Wages During Disasters

As an employer, am I required to pay my employees wages if a natural disaster temporarily disrupts my business? Do I still have to pay wages if my business is flooded and employees can’t work? The lawyer answer is, of course, “It depends.” Whether you are required to pay employees during a temporary closure due […]

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Crowdfunding: rewriting the investment rules

Dear Mary, I’d like to start a new business, but I need money. I don’t know any big investors, but I have a lot of friends who believe in my idea and can invest a little. Is there a way for me to have a lot of little investors, instead of a few big ones? You […]

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Whose job file is it, anyway?

In my last column, we discussed whether an employer must provide a current or former employee access to his or her personnel file and payroll records. This week, we’ll look at the specific information an employee may review. The general rule is that a current or past employee has the right to inspect his or […]

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File this under “Important!”: Employee Files

Dear Mary, I terminated an employee recently and they just sent me a letter demanding that I send them their employee file and payroll records. Am I required to do this? What do they have access to? You raise two major issues: 1) are you required to give an employee their employee file; and 2) what […]

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The Many Marks of Trademarks

Dear Mary, I have a new product that’s about to go on the market. I’ve noticed that some of my competitors have “TM” after the product name, or an “R” with a circle around it. What’s the difference? Do I need to add something after the name of my product? There are several different designations for […]

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We’re not from the government, but we’re here to help

Dear Mary, I incorporated my business a few months ago and today I received a letter that looked very official. It didn’t actually say whether it was from the state, but it said that I’m required to register and make some kind of statutory filing. What is this about? Why is it so expensive? I often […]

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Employee Bonuses

Dear Mary, I’m researching ways to increase sales and I think I’d like to offer bonuses to my employees. Are there any special rules I should know about paying bonuses? A cash bonus is a payment that is based on performance and earned at the end of a bonus period. Employers often use cash bonuses to […]

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