Yuki Noguchi

Yuki Noguchi is a correspondent on the Business Desk based out of NPR's headquarters in Washington D.C. Since joining NPR in 2008, she's covered business and economic news, and has a special interest in workplace issues — everything from abusive working environments, to the idiosyncratic cubicle culture. In recent years she has covered the housing market meltdown, unemployment during the Great Recession, and covered the aftermath of the tsunami in Japan in 2011. As in her personal life, however, her coverage interests are wide-ranging, and have included things like entomophagy and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Prior to joining NPR, Yuki started her career as a reporter for The Washington Post. She reported on stories mostly about business and technology, and later became an editor.

Yuki grew up with a younger brother speaking her parents' native Japanese at home. She has a degree in history from Yale.

The Labor Department is considering changing rules that define who qualifies for overtime pay and who does not, and businesses say it would have far-reaching consequences that may not be good for workers.

Currently, the rules say you have to make less than $23,660 a year to be automatically eligible for overtime, but the Labor Department's proposal would more than double that required salary level to $50,440. That would mean an estimated 6 million more people would be eligible for overtime pay.

The shootings on live TV of two young journalists last month highlighted, once again, the perils of dealing with potentially dangerous employees. Prior to the Roanoke, Va.-area attack, former employee and alleged shooter Vester Flanagan showed some violent tendencies at work. But it can be very difficult for employers to know when — and how — to step in.

We all harbor biases — subconsciously, at least. We may automatically associate men with law enforcement work, for example, or women with children and family. In the workplace, these biases can affect managers' hiring and promotion decisions.

So when Pete Sinclair, who's chief of operations at the cybersecurity firm RedSeal, realized that — like many other Silicon Valley companies — his company had very few female engineers and few employees who weren't white, Chinese or Indian, he wanted to do something about it.

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Investors are in the midst of a sell-off. The Chinese stock market's troubles are leading to big questions about how much that country's problems will be a drag on the rest of the global economy. The Dow Jones industrial average was down Monday nearly 600 points, or 3.5 percent.

So, what are average investors to do? Nothing. Hang tight. At least that's what most financial experts say.

But that advice is easier to give than to follow. When pushed off a cliff, one's natural instinct is to grab for anything to stop the fall.

A recent New York Times article about harsh workplace culture at Amazon called attention to how the online retailer handles evaluations: Any co-worker can critique another any time, anonymously. Less exhaustive versions of the peer performance review — or 360 review as they're often known — have been popular for several years.

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The State Department says it is working around the clock on a computer problem that's having widespread impact on travel into the U.S. The glitch has practically shut down the visa application process.

Of the 50,000 visa applications received every day, only a handful of emergency visas are getting issued.

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Scotts Miracle-Gro makes products for the care and health of lawns. The Marysville, Ohio, company says it wants to nurture its 8,000 employees the same way.

"It's very much of a family culture here," says Jim King, a spokesman for the Scotts company, which offers discounted prescriptions, annual health screenings and some free medical care.

In states where it's legal, the company refuses to hire people who smoke.

"We've been screening for tobacco use for about a decade," King says. "We no longer employ tobacco users."

When it comes to negotiating salaries, the research is pretty clear: women are less assertive than men. It's one reason women who start their careers with a narrower pay gap see it widen over time.

Carnegie Mellon economics professor Linda Babcock, who studies the gender pay gap, says men are four times more likely to negotiate their pay. That keeps women at a disadvantage, though they're not always aware of it.

The unpredictable schedules of retail and fast-food workers is a big issue in workers rights campaigns. Now, the New York attorney general is investigating the way some of the country's biggest retailers handle scheduling.

In New York, if a worker shows up for a shift that he doesn't end up being needed for, the law says he still is due four hours of pay. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says retailers, especially, rely heavily on systems that require workers to be ready to work a shift — regardless of whether they end up working. It's called on-call work.

The horrifying crash last week of the Germanwings flight operated by Lufthansa has put a spotlight on what the airline knew — and what it should, or could have done — about its pilot's mental health.

Lufthansa could face unlimited liability, after the pilot allegedly brought the plane down deliberately. Here in the U.S., employment experts say monitoring employees' mental health status raises a thicket of complicated issues.

Kraft Foods is going through a rough patch.

This week, Kraft recalled nearly 2.5 million boxes of macaroni and cheese that were potentially contaminated with metal pieces.

Also, Kraft Singles, a pre-sliced processed cheese product, earned a nutritional seal from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The seal prompted outrage from nutritionists.

The cold weather did not hamper hiring last month. Employers added nearly 300,000 jobs to payrolls, and the unemployment rate fell to 5.5 percent.

Despite another strong report, there is little evidence that all the hiring is putting upward pressures on wages.

And there are more than 6.5 million people working part time who would like to have more hours.

Six years ago, at Six Flags in Arlington, Texas, Wonder Woman had Batman's sidekick Robin in her sights.

"I just noticed him from across the room and remember thinking he was super-cute," says Hayley Welling, who performed as Wonder Woman at the theme park.

Soon, the romance between Wonder Woman and Robin — also known as Damian Marks — developed under the watchful eye of many fellow character actors.

Shake Shack, the Manhattan-based burger chain, has a cult following, and investors gobbled up shares Friday when it became a publicly traded company.

In its initial public offering, shares were priced at $21, but they jumped to nearly $50 as trading began, and closed the day just under $46.

In his State of the Union speech earlier this week, President Obama pitched a plan to boost what he called "middle-class economics." He asked Congress to help him make community college free, cut taxes for the middle class — and also do this:

"Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave," Obama said. "It's the right thing to do."

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In the U.S., roughly 10,000 people reach retirement age every day. And though not everyone who turns 62 or 65 retires right away, enough do that some companies are trying to head off the problem.

Dave Tobelmann, who for 33 years developed new products for General Mills, retired five years ago at age 57 — around the same time as a number of other colleagues. "Yeah, I went to a lot of retirement parties," Tobelmann says.

Losing veteran workers is a challenge, even for big companies like General Mills.

The minimum wage went up in 20 states Thursday, a day after the state of New York boosted its minimum, which means a majority of states now have a minimum wage higher than the federal government's, which is set at $7.25. The state with the highest minimum wage is now Washington state, at $9.47 an hour.

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Well, here's an idea for a lampooning December movie - it's the holidays and shipping companies can't get their act together. They disappoint millions of customers because they can't deliver gifts on time.

This year, Tennessee joined 21 other states that allow employees to leave guns in their cars in the office parking lot. The laws have left many employers debating how best to ensure safety at work.

After Georgia passed its law allowing employees to keep firearms in their employers' parking lots, Sally Roberts installed a sign on her newspaper firm's door. It read: "No Weapons Allowed."

A job candidate once threatened her, says Roberts, human resources director at Morris Communications. "She did become violent, and I'm very thankful she did not have a weapon."

McDonald's is not loving its financial numbers these days. The fast-food chain reported that same-store sales in the U.S. tumbled 4.6 percent in November compared with a year ago, as the company continues to struggle to find solid footing.

"McDonald's news this morning was jarring," says John Gordon, a consultant with Pacific Management Consulting. He has either worked in or tracked the fast-food industry for four decades. Monday's announcement, he says, had his colleagues abuzz.

Thanksgiving kicks off holiday party season, and at office holiday parties around the country, this means co-workers will make merry and mischief.

This time of year, Minneapolis attorney Kate Bischoff is a busy woman.

"I often represent clients who are handling the aftermath of a holiday party when it has gone off the rails," Bischoff says.

This includes, but is not limited to, bosses hitting on interns. There was also the case in which a manager gave a direct report a sexually explicit gift. Perhaps it was a joke, but it resulted in a harassment claim.

Business groups have long been active players in the nation's immigration debate. They represent employers who need to recruit workers, after all — employers who are sometimes investigated, even prosecuted, for hiring workers who are not approved to work in the U.S. legally.

Many big employers have been pushing for reforms that would allow them to keep more science and technology workers and skilled laborers in the country. But the executive action President Obama announced Thursday leaves out much of what the business lobby has been advocating for.

Valerie McMorris has served drinks at the Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, N.J., since it opened 24 years ago.

Casinos have sustained McMorris most of her life; both of her parents worked in casinos, she says. "It just allowed so many people a middle class status."

But McMorris says that's changing. Her pay and benefits have been cut. Her husband lost his job at the Revel, a gleaming $2.4 billion casino that went bust this year.

In gambling, they say, the house always wins. But that hasn't been the case in Atlantic City this year. By year's end, the city that once had an East Coast monopoly on gaming may lose its fifth casino.

The city is reeling from the closures. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday that the first order of business is to "stop the bleeding." So city and state officials are trying to reposition Atlantic City by literally building it up.

Performance review season is nearing, and if that makes you break out into a cold sweat, you're not alone. Studies show between 60 percent and 90 percent of employees, including managers, dislike the performance evaluation.

Some companies are starting to look at alternatives, but the performance review is pretty entrenched.

"They're fraudulent, bogus and dishonest," says Samuel Culbert, a management professor at UCLA who does research in dysfunctional management practice. "And second, they're indicative of and they support bad management."

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