Last week the New York Times ran an article, Skipping School for Cheap Flights? You Could be Fined In Germany. It begins as follows:

BERLIN — While airport security officials around the world check for weapons and identification before letting passengers board a plane, the police in Germany are checking for school-age children — and reporting families who take their youngsters on vacation without a teacher’s authorization.

Before school ended on Friday for the two-week spring vacation in Bavaria, officers caught 21 families allowing their children to play hooky, the police confirmed on Wednesday.

Offending parents were reported to the school and to the local authorities. In Bavaria, that could mean a fine as high as 1,000 euros, or about $1,200, in the mail that piled up during a trip.

Schools don’t want your children to miss school and especially not on the days right before a holiday.

Swiss schools (at least in my region) have the same policy.

Now, I will say that my son’s teachers have been very accommodating with us. We took my son out for two days (a Thursday and Friday) to go to his Aunt’s wedding in Turkey And a couple of years ago, he missed the last two days of school to travel to a family reunion in the United States. (The reunion started on Saturday, but I explained to the teacher that I wanted to fly out on Thursday so we had a day to recover from the flight before driving an additional three hours to the reunion.)

In both cases, we filled out the forms and the teacher approved them.

The schools my son has attended has an allotment of “Joker” days, which are days you can pull your kid out of school for whatever reason. He’s changed schools this year, so I don’t know if his new school has the same thing. His old one allowed two full days (or 4 half days).

If you want more than that, the approval process is much more difficult. People get approvals, of course, but if you don’t, you will be fined. One acquaintance was fined 2000 francs (about $2000, give or take). They appealed and got it lowered to 500 francs.

Now, I’m all in favor of kids not missing school. But never in my schooling experience, either as a student or as the parent of a student in three different school systems in two different countries, has the last day of school ever involved academic anything. There’s no reason to require a student to attend the last day of school except because we can.

It appears Germany takes this far more seriously than Switzerland does. No one at the airport checks for vacation times. Of course, our local airport serves a community with a large expat population who attend private schools that don’t have the same rules. Maybe if I presented Swiss passports at passport control they’d ask if we had permission from the school to be out.

This is one of the things I don’t like about the Swiss school system. The level of control. In our canton, homeschooling is also illegal unless the parent teaching has an education license. (Not all cantons have the same rule.) In neighboring Germany, homeschooling is flat out illegal. Period.

While homeschooling would never by my first choice for my children, I know some moms who do amazing jobs homeschooling their children. I also know some who did a totally craptastic job–but thankfully they eventually realized their own ineptitude and put their kids back in school. I do think parents should have that right.

I also think that missing a few days here and there isn’t a big deal. I like the Joker Day system.

How do your children’s schools handle absence requests for family vacations?


Ramadan Etiquette in the Office

by Evil HR Lady on June 1, 2018

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan runs from May 17 to June 14 in 2008, which means that you may have co-workers who aren’t eating or drinking between sun up and sundown. Considering the days are quite long in the northern hemisphere this seems like it could be a long and miserable day. How should you act?

To be honest, I had no idea. I’ve traveled a bit in the Middle East, but never over Ramadan, and my Muslim co-workers have been few and far between. So, I asked an expert: Nehad (Neesy) Mohanna. Mohanna is an American-Egyptian Muslim who spent 20 years as an engineer in the corporate world, working in the US and Egypt, and now owns her own health and wellness business in Switzerland.

If You Don’t Know What to Do or Say, Just Ask!

“I don’t know any Muslim who isn’t happy to talk about Ramadan. Even my 11-year-old, who is fasting, is happy to answer questions!” Mohanna says she and other Muslims recognize that the whole idea of fasting for a month is completely foreign to non-Muslims, but asking questions isn’t rude. She appreciates the questions.

To keep reading, click here: Ramadan Etiquette in the Office


Starbucks employees are not to be color blind, but “color brave” after yesterday’s unprecedented store shut down.This term comes from Mellody Hobson’s 2014 TED talk, “Color Blind or Color Brave.” Ms. Hobson’s idea is that we need to talk about race–even though it makes us extraordinarily uncomfortable. Hobson’s ideas and stories are powerful, but will it make a difference when you get your coffee?

Everybody Is Welcome

Starbuck’s decision to not limit the use of their space to customers only made headlines earlier and was emphasized at the training.

“Whether a person makes a purchase or not, they are welcome in our spaces. This includes the use of restrooms, cafes and patios–regardless of whether a person makes a purchase, they will be considered a customer. So partners, everyone who crosses the threshold is a customer.”

This seems nice and friendly but certainly makes Starbucks’ goodwill open to abuse. The Babylon Bee, a satirical website, mocked Starbucks policy earlier with the article: Frugal Dad Suggests Family Lodge At Starbucks During Memorial Day Vacation.

To keep reading, click here: What to Expect When Starbucks Opens Its Doors After Diversity Training


Your friend shows you a picture of a photograph she took. It’s absolutely stunning. The lighting, the composition, everything. It’s perfect! What do you say?

“You’re so talented!”

Why on earth do we say that? Was the picture taken the very first time your friend picked up a camera? Was that her first photo? It these answer to those things are yes, then it’s likely that it was pure talent–or pure luck. But, chances are, your friend worked very, very hard at learning the art of photography.

We use “talent” as kind of generic kind of praise, but it’s not really praise, because it’s saying “you had nothing to do with the success here. It’s all straight from God.” Now, if you believe that to be the case, fine, but most of us believe that God or no God, developing talent takes work. And we don’t need talent in order to succeed: We need to work.

This is why the Human Resource habit of using the word “talent” bugs me. We say we engage in “talent acquisition” instead of “recruiting.” But, what does that mean? Do we go and pluck talent off a shelf somewhere? What if someone doesn’t have all the “talent” you need right this instant? Does it acknowledge that we need to train and develop people?

To keep reading, click here: 10 Things to Say Instead of “You’re so Talented”


The Muppets and Risk-Taking Leadership

by Evil HR Lady on May 28, 2018

Everybody knows and loves the Muppets. The new documentary, “Muppet Guys Talking,” takes us behind the characters to understand how leadership in the puppet world can apply in the real world.

“Are we rolling?”

“We’re always rolling.”

The puppeteers behind the Muppets, the lovable puppets that starred in their own television show, movies and on Sesame Street, got together to talk about their experiences with the Muppets in the new documentary, “Muppet Guys Talking.” And while HR doesn’t often deal with real monsters and animals, their examples of building an entirely new world where the only limits are your own imagination should you give some ideas on risk-taking in leadership.

To keep reading, click here: The Muppets and Risk-Taking Leadership


Why I Support the NFL’s Right to Ban Kneeling

by Evil HR Lady on May 26, 2018

Two things you should know about me before you read this.

1. I absolutely believe in free speech. The government should never, ever punish anyone for voicing their opinion. You should be able to say whatever you want–even if it’s absolutely horrible–without fear of government reprisal. I will support you 100 percent in your quest to make a speech, hold a march, or even burn a flag.

2. I don’t care one whit about football and the NFL. I find government subsidies of football stadiums to be a horrendous thing and would never, ever vote in favor of such a subsidy. I find the NFL’s treatment of cheerleaders to border on criminal, and I don’t think they do enough to prevent brain injury. Would I say I have a positive view of the NFL? Absolutely not.

That out of the way, I support the NFL in their rule banning kneeling on the field during the National Anthem. Why? Because the players are at work.

To keep reading, click here: Why I Support the NFL’s Right to Ban Kneeling


Lean Cuisine launched a new hashtag campaign: #ItAll. The idea was part of a project they had done, asking women individually what they wanted, and then having them say what they wanted out of life when accompanied by a friend. The results were pretty good–89 percent of the women made more ambitious life choices when they were accompanied by a friend who supported them.

Here are their tweet and video:

So why did Twitter have a field day with them? Well, Twitter tends to have a field day with anyone who so much as breathes on Twitter, but here are some samples:


To keep reading, click here: Lean Cuisine Learns You Can’t Have It All, but You Can Get Laughed at on Twitter

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The GDPR is at our door, whether we’re ready or not—and an April poll showed a whopping 90 percent of businesses aren’t ready.

If you’re part of that 90 percent—or just plain wondering, “What the heck is GDPR?”—read on.

What is GDPR?

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation. It’s a new set of privacy laws in the European Union (EU) made to protect its citizens’ and residents’ data. The regulation vastly expands people’s rights over their personal information and how it’s used.

The deadline for businesses to make sure their data practices comply is May 25, 2018.

So why should you care about GDPR if your business isn’t in Europe? Because if you have European customers of any sort, your business needs to follow the laws.

The GDPR website states the laws “will also apply to organizations located outside of the EU if they offer goods or services to, or monitor the behavior of, EU data subjects.” In other words, any company that deals with “EU data subjects” has to abide by the new rules, regardless of where they are based. Those data subjects can include EU citizens and residents, but it could also could be interpreted to include non-residents visiting the EU.

To keep reading, click here: What Is GDPR? How the EU Law Will Affect US Small Businesses


My great-grandmother, Ethel Reynolds Smith, died in a mental hospital.

Her husband’s biography recorded her illness as follows:

“These down moods were cyclical, coming and going at irregular intervals and varying in their strength and duration. In time they came with greater frequency and intensity, causing deep feelings of depression and fear that so disturbed Ethel that she was unable to perform her daily tasks.”

“At other times her mind raced beyond control forcing her exhausted body to do more and more. Today, her condition would probably be diagnosed as a chemical imbalance. But in her day, they could only rely on prayer, priesthood blessings, and medical treatments that had no lasting relief. She died on August 26, 1937.”

I think about her often, and how grateful she would have been for medication that worked. Medication that many of her descendants (including me) take on a regular basis. People who take medication for mental health conditions shouldn’t start or stop these life-saving drugs without the advice of their doctors, but sometimes your company policies may encourage someone to stop.

To keep reading, click here: Mental Health Month at the Office: Fix Your Drug Testing Policies


The Victim Did Not Cause the Drama

by Evil HR Lady on May 22, 2018

Did you know that the HR executives at NBC had their offices in the middle of the newsroom staff–and those offices were glass?

How comfortable would you be, going to file a complaint about a co-worker if you had to do so in a glass office? If you were going to complain about sexual harassment from the company star, say, Matt Laurer, would you feel comfortable doing so in a glass office, where people could see you? 45 percent of us report crying at work, reports my Inc. Colleague, Heather R. Huhman. Might you feel like crying if you had to report something traumatic? Might you not want to do that in a glass office?

Might you be afraid of causing drama by reporting something? People see you walk in, cry, and walk out. They know something is up. Even if the HR manager pulled the blinds,  it’s all kinds of obvious.

But, here’s the deal. The reporting employee isn’t the cause of the drama. The harasser is. In this case, Matt Lauer caused the drama. But we don’t see that.

So many people (especially women) are afraid of causing drama so they keep their mouths shut when they would prefer to speak up.

To keep reading, click here:  The Victim Did Not Cause the Drama