United States: About the United States – An Introduction Part 2


Working the ‘American Way’

American Worklife. The American worklife fuels what is considered to be the strongest economy in the world. People in the US are working increasingly in telecommunications, information technology, service and manufacturing jobs, and less and less in agriculture and forestry. Americans work long hours, take, on average, two weeks of vacation, and spend a lot of time doing work-related travel [either commuting to work by car or travelling to visit clients].

The American Dream. Built into the United States work concept is the idea of the ‘American Dream’ that every individual can succeed and prosper financially by working hard. This idea still surfaces in many ways in the US and is a driving force behind many individuals’ desire to come to the US. This idea contributes to a strong work ethic and a system that is merit based [believing that hard work deserves compensation]. It becomes a reality for some and a myth for others, contributing to a widening spread between the rich and poor in the US.

Major Work Topics and Issues. In the US, individuals in the workplace have a number of rights that are protected by American law. To some foreigners, the US system seems employee-centered. Many businesses spend a great deal of time, energy, and money to ensure they comply with basic laws regarding employee rights. The major topics in the US Workplace today are: Affirmative Action, Discrimination based on Age, Race, Ethnicity, and Sexual Orientation, Diversity, Disabled Workers, Equal Employment Opportunities, Safety in the Workplace [including Preventing Workplace Violence, Drug Use, and Sexual Harassment], Privacy Rights, and Religious Protection. These issues revolve around two main ideas: 1.] Individuals have the same right to be employed in a workplace, and they cannot be discriminated against because of factors like race, age, religion, sexual orientation, disabilities, or gender; and 2.] Individuals have certain rights regarding basic pay standards, safety, and treatment in the workplace that must be met by employers.

Employee Protection Legislation Affecting Business. The major laws that address the issues above include : the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Americans with Disabilities Act, Child Labor Laws, Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act [COBRA], Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act [HIPAA], Immigration and Nationality Act [INA], Fair Labor Standards Act [FLSA], Family and Medical Leave Act [FMLA], Occupational Safety and Health Administration Act [OSHA], Unemployment Compensation, and Worker’s Compensation. When doing business with the US, know that for most procedures there are a set of rules and guidelines that your US business counterparts must follow. Contracts are legally binding documents and are commonplace.

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