Business Beware: You Can’t Take Deceptive Steps to Manipulate the Collection or Publishing of Negative Reviews on Your Website

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



customer reviewsBusinesses are to avoid potentially deceptive conduct that would confuse consumers under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, and the FTC is now focusing very heavily on deceptive customer reviews and endorsements. Deceptive conduct includes any conduct which treats positive and negative reviews unequally, thus misleading consumers of useful information and inflating the product’s star rating.

In one of its first cases, the FTC pursued Fashion Nova, LLC, a fast fashion retailer that attempted to conceal negative reviews. According to the complaint, “Fashion Nova used a third- party online product review management interface to post four- and five-star reviews and hold off on lower star reviews [estimated in the hundreds of thousands] for the company’s approval.” Fashion Nova never approved or posted the lower star reviews. In its settlement with the FTC, Fashion Nova is prohibited from suppressing customer reviews of its products and is required to pay $4.2 million to settle the FTC’s allegations.

What does this mean for businesses that use or consult regarding consumer reviews?

  • Don’t manipulate reviews by hiding/revising/displaying differently bad reviews, encourage people not to leave bad reviews, or pay people to give only good reviews.
  • If you pay people for good reviews, whether in your company or not, the relationship should be clearly and conspicuously disclosed.
  • Moderate what your customers are telling you in the reviews and have reasonable processes in place to spot fake or suspicious reviews after publication.

Remember, even if you hire a platform to manage your customer reviews, your business is still liable, just like Fashion Nova.

Posted by Attorney Ruth Binger. Binger serves both emerging and mature businesses concentrating in corporate law, intellectual property and technology law, cybersecurity, digital media law, and labor and employment law. Her commitment to the success of small to medium-sized businesses, and her understanding of multi-faceted issues inherent in operations, are what distinguish Binger’s practice. 

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Will College Athletes Be Considered Employees?

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



Authored by Attorney Ruth Binger and with assistance from Haley E. Gassel, contributorsports

College athletes generate billions of dollars in revenue for their colleges and universities. As athletes are realizing their value to college sports, they have increasingly engaged in collective action and sued to be considered employees. A recent memorandum by General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) puts this issue on the forefront, indicating that the NLRB is classifying college athletes at academic institutions as employees under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

In National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston, the Supreme Court held that the NCAA’s restrictions on student athletes being compensated fell within antitrust scrutiny. The unanimous court ruled unanimously that the NCAA cannot prevent athletes from receiving education-related benefits, such as scholarships for graduate or vocational school, payments for academic tutoring, or paid post eligibility internships. The Supreme Court has recognized that college athletes are not amateurs, and they contribute to a profit-making enterprise. Additionally, in Johnson v. NCAA, a federal judge in Pennsylvania held that a group of student athletes plausibly alleged that they were employees of their colleges and universities and allowed their action against their colleges and universities under the Fair Labor Standards Act to proceed. Overall, courts are signaling a willingness to consider arguments that student athletes should be classified as employees. Continue reading »

Over the Counter COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests Are Required to Be Reimbursed by Your Health Care Plan

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



covid testOn December 2, 2021, President Biden announced that the Departments of Labor, Treasury, and Human Resources (“Departments”) would issue guidance by January 15, 2022, to clarify that individuals who purchase Over The Counter COVID-19 Diagnostic tests (“OTC Tests”) during the public health emergency will be able to seek reimbursement from their group health plans or health insurance plans insurers (Collectively “Plans”).

On January 10, 2022, the Departments updated their guidance to generally require coverage of OTC tests, with or without a prescription or individualized clinical assessment by an attending health care provider. The Plan cannot impose cost-sharing requirements, prior authorization, or other medical management requirements.  The test needs to be for Plan participant’s personal use or for a family member enrolled under the Plan.

How to Purchase? Continue reading »

Medical Marijuana Use by Employees in Missouri: Where Are We Now?

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



medical marijuanaDue to the pandemic and labor shortage, Missouri courts have not had an opportunity to consider Amendment 2 and employment issues related to medical marijuana in the workplace. Amendment 2 allows state licensed physicians to recommend medical marijuana to patient employees diagnosed with chronic debilitating conditions. It also protects employees with a medical marijuana card issued by the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) from being terminated unless the employer proves that the employee is “under the influence of marijuana.”

There are no reliable tests available yet to scientifically confirm if someone is “under the influence” of marijuana. A person will test positive for marijuana for up to 25 days after use. However, there are impairment tests on the market that can help determine whether workers in safety-sensitive positions are at risk by testing current fitness for duty.  Those tests include computer-based alertness tests similar to a video game and apps that test for cognitive and motor impairment. Some tests take 20 seconds and are advertised as testing for fatigue, dehydration, emotional distress, alcohol, cannabis, etc.

Without more guidance, employers will have to create Observed Behavior tests that are signed by company personnel to bolster an argument of “under the influence.” Further, because Amendment 2 is a constitutional amendment, it would necessarily trump existing Missouri law found in laws such as workers’ compensation and unemployment statutes.

Another possible employee defense is an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defense where the employee is taking physician-prescribed medical marijuana for a chronic debilitating condition that is protected by the disability laws. Missouri has no case law at this time. U.S. case law trends are that when courts are asked to apply federal law (the ADA) versus state law (i.e., Missouri Human Rights Act), federal courts are not finding a protected disability due to the employee using an illegal drug. Continue reading »

Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccines in the Workplace Update: Ruth Binger Interview

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



covid vaccineRuth Binger spoke with KMOV Channel4 News about a possible increase in companies requiring the COVID-19 vaccination for their employees.

According to Ruth, the fact that the vaccination does not yet have FDA approval is keeping many companies from considering a mandatory vaccination policy at this time. To date, none of her clients have a mandatory policy in place. “I do think it’s changing a little bit because of the Delta variant, and now [companies are] thinking about whether or not they should have a mandatory policy.”

Ruth said that another concern employers about enforcing a mandatory COVID-19 policy is the national worker shortage. Continue reading »

COVID-19 Vaccines and the Workforce – Mandatory or Encouraged?

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



covid-19 vaccineGetting back to normal in the next year or so may be impossible without the widespread use of COVID-19 vaccines. Although authorities do not anticipate the vaccines will be widely available until Spring 2021, employers should be considering whether to mandate or merely encourage vaccinations in the workforce.

Currently there is no definitive answer regarding mandatory vaccinations, and your plan will depend on many variables. Because this is the first pandemic in our memory and it is all new to us, consider forming a committee to monitor the status of laws, regulations, and guidance from various agencies.

Your business may be one of the lucky ones that navigated the pandemic without causing a loss of morale or culture, operating safely by working remotely, social distancing, wearing masks, and following CDC requirements. If so, setting aside all other factors, you may simply want to encourage vaccinations for the first few months that they are available, especially given potential concerns about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines and the ever-changing laws. You could do this by training and educating employees as to the efficacy of the vaccine, encouraging participation, and offering the vaccine for free (if not covered by insurance) at the workplace during work hours. Continue reading »

$5,000 Grants Available to Restaurants and Small Businesses in St. Louis County

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



covid-19 helpIn response to the tightening of COVID-19 restrictions for restaurants and some other small businesses, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced $5,000 grants through the Small Business Rapid Deployment Fund.

Grants can be used for operating expenses or business costs (e.g., rent and payroll) and purchases needed to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions (e.g., heaters and tents) “incurred between April 1 and December 16, 2020 as a direct result of COVID-19.”

According to the fund’s website, restaurants and small businesses must meet the several eligibility requirements including: Continue reading »

What is The Best Franchise Model For You?

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



franchiseToday, approximately 35 percent of franchises are owned solely or co-owned by women and that percentage is steadily increasing. Women’s superior relationship skills shine in service businesses and women gravitate toward more female oriented franchise models such as hair salons, weight loss centers, flower shops, cosmetic companies, etc. Driven by the desire to start a small business in order to create more flexibility and control over their time and to be their own boss, the franchising model is an exciting lure. Caution, however, speed bumps abound. Your entrepreneurial zeal should be tempered with a reality knowledge check which includes due diligence performed by you, number crunching services performed by your accountant and perspective and legal advice provided by your attorney.

What to Expect from Franchise System

Although the franchise model is no guarantee, the model may increase your chance of staying in business. The Small Business Administration, however, has consistently found that franchises have the same success rates as independent small businesses. Businesses fail for many reasons, some of which the franchise model cannot fix.  A good franchisor should eliminate, control, or manage many of the common mistakes a starting small business makes.  At the minimum for the initial investment and recurring costs of royalty and marketing monthly fees, a franchisee should receive brand recognition (trademarks, advertising and promotion), quality control, site selection and opening support, continuing training and operational guidance, stability, and value for the investment.

Continue reading »

Getting Back to Work: OSHA Guidance for Non-Essential Businesses

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



reopeningOSHA has released new guidelines for reopening to help non-essential businesses ensure the safety and health of their employees and customers from the spread of COVID-19.

This new guidance supplements Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 from the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Guidelines for Opening up America Again from the White House.

Under the new OSHA guidelines, businesses should establish reopening policies and procedures in the following areas: Continue reading »

Legal Guidance for Employers on Navigating New Wellness/Health Policies – On Demand Webinar

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



A recent survey of Missouri manufacturers by Missouri Enterprise found that understanding wellness and health guidelines due to Covid-19 is a top challenge for moving forward.

In “Legal Guidance to Help Employers Navigate New Wellness/Health Policies,” a webinar from Missouri Enterprise, I discuss major obstacles and gray areas related to protecting employees in the new normal of Covid-19.

Watch the webinar to learn how to navigate the new health order while protecting employees on the job. Questions include:

  • Can employers require employees to get flu or Covid-19 vaccinations?
  • What questions can an employer legally ask when an employee calls in sick?
  • What can an employer do if an employee doesn’t want to return to work because they are afraid of getting sick?
  • Can an employer require high-risk employees (due to age or health) to stay home?
  • What information can an employer share with other employees if an employee is being tested for the virus?
  • Can a company require an employee to leave work if they seem ill?
  • Can an employer be held liable if an employee contacts the virus at the workplace?
  • If the virus spread through the workplace, is it considered a workers’ comp injury?

Click below to watch the webinar: Continue reading »

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