They Pay for the Honor to Work at McDonald’s

To be honest, I’d never heard of this phenomenon before, so I thought I’d better share it. It seems that young Thai university students pay $3,000 and up to come to the U.S. and work in a fast-food joint for the honor of listing “foreign work experience” on their resumes.

Now, $3,000 in Thai current is a huge sum, but listen to Jiratchaya Intarakhumwong: “Honestly, if I had the money, I’d go back.”

Back to what? Jiratchaya and two friends spent the summer cramped in a Best Value Inn, the cost of which wasn’t included in the $3,000 work-travel package, and each morning donned McDonald’s uniforms and took the shuttle bus to the Pittsburgh International Airport to begin their 6 a.m. minimum-wage shifts.

It paid off. Jiratchaya is now 22, a university graduate, and works as a service representative for the deluxe Sofitel Hotel in Bangkok.

The Thai language book Go Work, Go Study, Go Vacation in America: Don’t Think You Can’t is part how-to guide, part memoir about a Bangkok college student’s stints at McDonald’s and Whattaburger franchises in the Florida panhandle.

The author, known only as “Baeya,” explains in detail the concept of a “drive-thru,” her no-nonsense manager named “Diamond,” and the persistent customers who tried to woo her.

“We were all very excited,” she wrote of her first day at McDonald’s. “I tried to tell myself and all my friends that we don’t have to worry. Even if they scold us, we won’t understand anyway.”

Even former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra once worked at a Kentucky Fried Chicken in the U.S.

Many of the young women report being hit on by farangs, the Thai term for white-skinned foreigners.

Welcome to America, the land of McDonald’s–and horny McDonald’s customers.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Complying With Government Regulations the CD-ROM Way

Personnel Concepts, according to those I’ve spoken with there recently, is making a big push to create interactive tools for companies to create documents and posters to comply with OSHA and other regulations.

First to come out was the Fire Prevention Program CD-ROM. OSHA requires that every place of business create, print and distribute to every employee a fire prevention plan. This CD lets you do that by answering a series of on-screen questions on your computer monitor. It then creates a file to print out everything you need.

Ditto with Personnel Concepts’ second interactive software tool, the Emergency Action Plan CD-ROM. OSHA requires that employers create, print and distribute exit-route instructions for emergencies, along with emergency action procedures and reporting steps. This clever little tool does that all for you with keystroked input about your workplace.

Other companies offer similar products, but Personnel Concepts seems to be both thorough and authoritative, even offering to pay your fines should these programs not produce the documents you need.

Worth a look, especially since both programs run on Macs and PCs.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Some Unemployed Are Being Taken to the Bank

NEWS ITEM: At least 30 states have contracted with banks to provide direct-deposit unemployment benefits, some of which come in the form of a debit card. This saves the states the cost of printing checks and mailing them.

REALITY: Some banks are abusing the system by charging fees to use these unemployment debit cards. Try $20 for trying to “charge” too much on the card–an overdraft fee when all the bank has to do is refuse the charge. Or how about 50 cents to check your balance? A fee per transaction each time you make a withdrawal? Etc. Etc.

Here’s one man’s story:

Arthur Santa-Maria, a laid-off engineer who lives just outside Albuquerque, N.M., said he didn’t pay any fees the first time he was laid off, for several months in 2007. His unemployment benefits were paid by paper checks. He found a new job last year but was laid off again last fall.

This time, he was issued a Bank of America debit card—a “prepaid” card in industry lingo—but he was surprised to learn he had to pay fees to get his money. He asked the bank to waive them. It said no. That’s when Santa-Maria called back to ask how to check his account online. He logged on and saw that the call cost him a half dollar. To avoid more fees, Santa-Maria found a Bank of America ATM at a strip mall and withdrew $80 at no charge. When he got back to his car, he decided to take out the rest of his money—$250—and deposit it in his bank account.

Afterward, Santa-Maria logged on to his account and saw a charge of $1.50 for two withdrawals in one day.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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First Skyscrapers, Now Carboard Boxes and Mini-Skirts

secondhand-cardboard-boxesA week ago, I warned you about the skyscraper index: As more cloud-hugging buildings are built, the economy goes the other direction, down, in other words.

Now, here are a couple of more useful, or maybe useless, indices.

The first one is the cardboard box index, reportedly a favorite of ex-Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, creator of no less than three recessions, including the current depression-bordering turndown. According to this index, as cardboard box sales go up, so do the economy and the stock market.

My favorite, however, is the hemline index. According to this index, the lower the hemline, the suckier the economy and the lower the stock market. So if we suddenly see the widespread revival of the mini-skirt, we can expect a stock market rally and economic recovery to follow upward in lockstep.

The logic behind these is actually fairly sound, especially with cardboard boxes. Sales of boxes, which are used in shipping, indicate the health of the economy. A stronger economy will see more goods being shipped, and vice versa. As for those beloved (for men, anyway) mini-skirts, the hemline is said to indicate the mood of the country. When it’s up, people are happy because times are good; when down, well, you get it.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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A Trillion Here, a Trillion There, and Pretty Soon We’re Talkin’ Real Money

The federal deficit for 2009 has already surged past the $1-trillion mark, supposedly for the first time in U.S. history, with the passage of the so-called stimulus plan optimistically named the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

But wait, the deficit for 2008, though officially announced as $455 billion, actually topped the trillion mark. How so? Because the feds simply counted money stolen from the Social Security trust fund, which paid for the other $600 billion or so in undisclosed debt, as an “intergovernmental transfer.” Cute trick, eh?

Actually, since our founding, the nation’s federal debt has been reduced to zero only once, and that was in 1835 under Andrew Jackson. In fact, the government entered that year with $440,000 in the treasury. (Bill Clinton claims to have balanced the yearly budget once, with a bunch of accounting tricks, but he came nowhere close to the Jacksonian feat of wiping out all government debt.)

It didn’t last long. By 1936, the nation had been plunged into a six-year-long depression, starting a cycle of national debt increases that hasn’t ended, or been paid off, till this day. Cause of that depression? Crash of the real estate market due to a bubble.

As Everett Dirksen once said, “A million here, a million there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.”

Substitute “trillion” for “million” to see what a fix we’ve gotten ourselves into.

(There is some historical dispute about whether Dirksen ever uttered that comment, but even if it’s apocryphal, it works.)


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Sleep Safely on Your Money; Forget Banks

money_bedA sign of the times, no doubt: A company is now marketing a bed with a safe under your pillow in which to stash your cash and a plasma television at feet’s end for your viewing pleasure.

Like Uncle Scrooge, you can now stay home all day and count your dough while watching your favorite satellite or cable offerings–or add a DVD player for further options.

At $20,400, the Executive Safe-T Bed from Hollandia International doesn’t come cheap, but CEO Avi Barseessat told the New York Times in an interview that it’s not just the benefit of knowing where your money is, “You also get a good quality sleep.”

It’s a better investment–and sounder sleep–than forking over twenty grand to Bernie Madoff, at any rate.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Millennials Sound a Bit Like All of Us

A lot is being written, human resources- and management-wise, about so-called millennials in the workplace, millennials being those born between 1980 and 2000.

One respected HR authority whom I routinely read, Susan Heathfield, even offers “Eleven Tips for Managing Millennials.”

First, however, she describes the traits of working millennials: “Millennials have a ‘can-do’ attitude about tasks at work and look for feedback about how they are doing frequently – even daily. Millennials want a variety of tasks and expect that they will accomplish every one of them. Positive and confident, millennials are ready to take on the world. They seek leadership, and even structure, from their older and managerial coworkers, but expect that you will draw out and respect their ideas. Millennials seek a challenge and do not want to experience boredom.”

This description sounds as if it could easily apply to any young person entering the labor market for the first time, whether in 1969 or 2009, so I wonder if we aren’t overblowing so-called generational differences.

I guess the main thing is that millennials are perceived to be radically different from Gen-Xers, those born to America’s tenth generation. Presumably, they’re either too laid back or too cynical for some reason.

I’m not an expert on these matters, but from what I read of Smithfield’s description of millennials and the workplace, I defintely had the same feelings and approach when I entered the professional world a few decades back–and I definitely ain’t no Gen-Xer, but a Baby Boomer.

Smithfield is so savvy, however, that I don’t see how her “Eleven Tips” couldn’t apply to and work with any employee, for instance, “provide structure, leadership and guidance” (I combined the first two). What enterprise could succeed without those being provided?

So, regardless of your generational identity (if you cling to one), I recommend reading Smithfield’s tips.

Generations at Work, the online home of Claire Raines Associates, says that the following are millennials’ six most frequent requests of management:

1. You be the leader. This generation has grown up with structure and supervision, with parents who were role models. Millennials are looking for leaders with honesty and integrity.

2. Challenge me. Millennials want learning opportunities. They want to be assigned to projects they can learn from.

3. Respect me. “Treat our ideas respectfully,” they ask, “even though we haven’t been around a long time.”

4. Be flexible. The busiest generation ever isn’t going to give up its activities just because of jobs.

5. Let me work with friends. Millennials say they want to work with people they click with.

6. Let’s have fun. A little humor, a bit of silliness, even a little irreverence will make your work environment more attractive.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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If You Like EMRs and EHRs, You’ll Love PHRs

I‘m still not clear on the difference between EMRs (electronic medical records) and EHRs (electronic health records), but now we have PHRs (personal health records). At least PHRs I think I understand.

Back to the first two: I’ve read where there’s no difference between EMRs and EHRs except that EHR is designed to be more marketing friendly for some reason. I’ve also read where EMRs are patients’ electronic records maintained at one location while EHRs are shared electronic records available across a network.

Whatever the case may be, the stimulus package from our lawmakers includes a bundle of dough to implement EMRs and/or EHRs. (Could this be like Betamax v. VHS or Blu-Ray v. HD-DVD?)

However the stimulus package implementation turns out, and we won’t know for years, PHRs are available right now on both Google and MSN. A personal health record is something that the individual chooses to create on one of those providers (I think WebMD offers PHRs as well).

Security issues aside, people have expressed fears that these providers might sell your data to pharmaceutical and other health marketing companies. Google denies this, if you trust what Google says.

Still, this is pretty exciting when you factor in IBM’s development of Continua-compatible software, which you can use to upload your vital data to your PHR, where your physician can access it and make recommendations. Already, a pulse oximeter is available (whatever that is), and future devices will measure blood pressure, glucose levels, temperature, weight and so on. In other words, instead of going in for a physical, you can update your data and have your doctor analyze it.

Now, the question is–will physicians go along with this since they can’t charge for an office consultation if you don’t come in person? I doubt it unless the rules are changed so they can charge for e-visits.

Wouldn’t it be great to sit at work, take your uploadable blood pressure, and sit back and wait for your doctor to call and say, “I think we need to change your Lisinopril level.” Sure beats taking a morning off and waiting around two hours for your doctor to get to you.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Mandatory Sick Leave an Employer Burden?

Businesses in Milwaukee are fighting a referendum that mandates up to nine days of paid sick leave for all employees working within the city. Voters overwhelmingly approved the referendum this past November, but last week a coalition of business owners got a court to slap a restraining order on its implementation. The measure will be debated in the court in detail beginning in May.

Meanwhile, the “Agenda” section of WhiteHouse.gov says that “Barack Obama and Joe Biden will require that employers provide seven paid sick days per year.” That’s a pretty clear signal.

Change like this–the government’s mandating employers to provide paid sick leave–may take awhile to implement given the worrisome nature of the economy, but my guess is that it won’t be long before paid leave is the law of the land.

The thought may freak out some business owners, but a survey of world policy toward paid leave shows that the U.S. is way, way, way behind most nations of the world, even ones where one might attach the “third world” moniker.

Take the issue of maternity/paternity leave, the paid variety. Gabon offers 14 weeks of 100-percent-of-salary paid leave to the mother, with job protection. Mexico offers 12 weeks at 100 percent, Peru 90 days at full salary. China tenders 90 days at 100 percent, but Japan–the world’s second largest economy behind ours–offers 14 weeks but at just 60 percent of wages.

Take a trip across the pond to our neighbors in Europe, and you’ll find some really generous packages: All working parents in Sweden are entitled to 16 months paid leave per child, the cost being shared between employer and state. France has a sliding scale starting at 14 weeks and rising in length as the number of children in the family increases.

Five countries in the world do not offer some form of paid parental leave: Australia, the United States, Liberia, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea. However, most employees in Australia are entitled to at least 12 months’ unpaid leave for the primary caregiver, and new parents are able to receive a Baby Bonus of A$5000.

At least no one in Washington is proposing Sweden-like benefits. Yet.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Watch What You Say, Young Man!

The International Longevity Center and Aging Services of California have issued a media guide for writing about older people, which lists acceptable (PC) words and unacceptable (non-PC) terms.

However, it really depends on the audience reading what’s written to define acceptable. Readers in their 20s or 30s said in a survey they would take no offense at reading “senior citizen,” for example. In fact, “senior citizen” is viewed as a neutral term by those under 54 but offensive by those 55 and older. Hmmmm….

Likewise, “retiree” is okay with those 54 and under, but disliked by those 55 and older. “Veteran” is acceptable to both groups, but that would seem to apply only to people who’ve served in the military, not generally to old coots. Oops, that’s a no-no that never should be used. My bad (even though I do qualify as an old coot).

Some terms to be avoided at all costs include “golden years,” “feisty,” “spry,” “feeble,” “eccentric,” “senile” and “grandmotherly.”

This is useful information for the workplace as well, so as to avoid EEOC and DOL inquiries and potential legal disputes over ageism or hostile environments.

Get your copy of Media Takes: On Aging.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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