Photo of Joe Guffey

Business leaders call Joe because he has 30 years of experience assisting companies and individuals to be successful, achieve their business goals and expand business opportunities. Joe’s experience ranges from business issues involving employees and employment law to defending the products manufactured by companies.

In April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released the results of its 2023 sampling assignment, testing for asbestos in talc-containing products. The results confirmed the absence of asbestos in all 50 samples tested, marking the third consecutive year of asbestos-free talc products in the United States. While this news is reassuring for industry participants, the legal landscape remains complex due to ongoing litigation. This article explores the legal implications, potential risks, and regulatory changes related to asbestos detection in cosmetic talc products.

Most startups initially focus on incorporation, funding, and protecting their intellectual property, which is logical and practical! While these are all important and necessary, startups should also ensure that they are protecting their new startup from legal actions such as a lawsuit – the dreaded “L” word. A lawsuit is the official court process in which two or more parties seek to resolve a dispute. A legal battle can be lengthy, expensive, and create bad publicity. Startups are experiencing a rise in litigation and below we will focus on three growing risks to startups and provide practical steps to prevent these types of lawsuits.

Being threatened with a lawsuit is always frightening and unsettling but sometimes can be avoided. For example, in a sole proprietorship, both the company and owner could be liable for the damages. Structuring a startup as a corporation or a limited liability company could help reduce owner liability. Generally speaking, the creditors of a business also cannot succeed against the founders and other investors of corporations and LLCs for unpaid debts because they are sheltered by the corporate status.

The answer is “Yes” if your start-up has progressed far enough along to have hired six (6) employees. The Missouri Human Rights Act (“MHRA”) makes it illegal to discriminate in any aspect of employment, including tangible employment actions, because of an individual’s race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, disability or age (between the ages of 40 through 69).  Under the MHRA, an employer is “a person engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has six or more employees for each working day in each of twenty or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.”  This means as your startup succeeds in growing, you must be aware of the 6-employee rule and the impact on your business if you violate the MHRA. 

Recently the Supreme Court of Missouri held that The Protection of Lawful Commerce and Arms Act (“PLCAA”) preempts a negligence claim but allows a correctly pled negligent entrustment action against a firearm seller. Thus, the PLCAA is not only a hot political topic being discussed by the Presidential Candidates, but also one that is being litigated within the legal system.

In Delana v. Ced Sales, Inc., d/b/a Odessa Gun & Pawn, et al., (2016 WL 1357209 (MO en banc April 6, 2016, not released for publication) defendant Odessa Gun & Pawn (“Odessa) sold a firearm, to a mentally ill child of the plaintiff, Janet Delana, which the child used to kill her own father.  Plaintiff telephoned Odessa and asked the store manager, Derrick Dady, to refrain from selling a gun to her daughter, who was severely mentally ill and should not have a gun.  Plaintiff also told Mr. Dady that her daughter had purchased a gun at Odessa the previous month and attempted to commit suicide, and said, “I’m begging you, I’m begging you as a mother, if she comes in, please don’t sell her a gun. Two days later, Mr. Dady sold her a gun and ammunition which she used within an hour to kill her father.

On April 11, 2016, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon signed an Executive Order that immediately implemented a “Ban the Box” policy for Missouri state agencies, departments, boards, and commissions. Under this Order, state employers must amend their initial employment applications to remove questions relating to an individual’s criminal history unless a criminal history would render an applicant ineligible for the position. State employers may still request information about an applicant’s criminal past and may still conduct a criminal background check as a condition of employment, but the Order requires that state agencies wait until later in the application process to procure that information. The Order does not specify exactly when in the application process employers may make these criminal history inquiries.

What is “Ban the Box?” Generally speaking, it is an international campaign seeking to eliminate the question—“Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”—from employment applications.  “Ban the box” laws usually provide that an employer must wait to ask applicants about their criminal histories until after a conditional offer of employment is made AND that an employer must consider how the individual criminal history is job-related for the position in question.

There currently are 21 states and over 100 cities and counties that have a “ban the box” law.  Further, 7 states have statewide “ban the box” laws that apply to private employers—Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, and Rhode Island.

Listen to the Podcast

What’s required before you obtain a background check on a prospective employee? And what’s required before and after you take adverse action against a prospective employee based on the background check?

Joe Guffey discusses the do’s and don’ts of conducting employee background checks under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).