Employer Fundamentals: Understanding Employment Law
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Employer Fundamentals: Understanding Employment Law

As a business owner, keeping informed about the finer points of employment law is important. If you're getting ready to hire your first employees, you need to be sure that you understand exactly what you can and cannot do. Don't risk getting yourself into legal trouble by asking the wrong question at the interview or making an off-hand comment that's considered legally unacceptable. I created this site to give you the basics of employment law expectations. I hope that the information here helps you to understand what you should and shouldn't do as you're interviewing and hiring your first staff members.

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Employer Fundamentals: Understanding Employment Law

4 Ways To Get In Legal Trouble When You're Homeless

Irene Robertson

If being homeless isn't hard enough, there are at least four ways you can run into legal problems just trying to do activities of daily living  or to rustle up some money for food and other necessities.

1. Loitering In Public Places

Many urban areas across the U.S. have criminalized

  • loitering,
  • sleeping in public on benches, on the ground in parks
  • sleeping in vehicles
  • sitting in certain areas, and
  • camping (by setting up a tent or living out of a camper/RV in an unauthorized spot).

Just the fact that you are homeless and/or jobless can result in a vagrancy charge, which is called a "status crime" because it is more about your condition than what you are doing. 

2. Begging

Begging is also against the law in many places and can result in a misdemeanor charge. Some police have even gone undercover to catch people at it.

3. Busking

Of course, many buskers (public street performers who accept contributions)  are not homeless, but some homeless people do busk to earn some money.

Throughout the U.S. judges have agreed that busking is a form of speech that is protected by the First Amendment. In a (2009) case brought by the ACLU in the 9th Circuit Court, it was decided that making buskers get permits is a form of censorship, so some places like St. Louis have repealed the requirement for permits.

It is possible for a busker get charged with causing a public disturbance, or for not having a permit if the locality requires one. Some buskers favor getting a permit with mild restrictions and a small fee, so they wouldn't be in danger of being other crimes like loitering or disturbing the peace.

4. Selling Things

Some people living in vehicles may be able to make crafts to sell in public areas. To stay out of trouble, you may need to apply and pay a small fee for a permit. Getting the proper permits may be a problem when you don't have a permanent address.

You may be able to overcome this by renting a post office box, or by using a commercial business service that has post office boxes and would let you use their street address for a small monthly fee.

Your state may require you to collect sales tax on your business, and if you are caught not doing that, you can be in trouble with your state's department of revenue.

When looking for a place to set up, you will need to find places with high traffic but also where commerce can carried on legally or face the fines or other penalties.

Other charges homeless persons frequently receive are:

  • public intoxication,
  • prostitution,
  • disorderly conduct, and
  • being a public nuisance.

If you are being charged with a homelessness crime, you need to consult an attorney. At times various aspects of anti-homelessness laws and their constitutionality can be called into question because they violate your right to exist and they may violate your reasonable expectation of liberty. Misdemeanor charges can also give you a police record that can harm your employability and worsen your circumstances.

An attorney will look at your case to find the best ways to fight unjust enforcement of the laws regarding your situation. Contact a local attorney, such as through http://www.ourbendlawyer.com. Some attorneys are willing to take on a pro bono case (no fee) or may take a reduced fee for helping you. Also, your Legal Aid Society or a local homeless advocacy group may be of some assistance.


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