Friday, December 7, 2012

You Have the Right to Remain Silent; Anything You Say Can and Will Be Used Against You in a Court of Public Opinion

I've loved writing since I wrote my first mystery story in fifth grade. As I got older, I found writing to be a safe refuge from the risk of saying the wrong thing to the wrong person. When I wrote, I had time to think and change my mind. But when I misspoke, the words hung out there forever.

Ask Bob Costas if he can identify. See my post from yesterday.

Ask Darden, the parent company of restaurants including Olive Garden and Red Lobster. It announced in October that it would experiment with shifting more workers to part-time due to impending health benefit requirements under Obamacare. "Starting in 2014, Obamacare requires firms with 50 or more full-time workers to offer these employees basic health benefits or risk paying a fine. While studies have shown that Obamacare only modestly increases health care spending for large firms — while actually reducing it for smaller employers — that has not stopped some large employers from painting Obamacare as a burdensome bogeyman."  (http://thinkprogress.org/health/2012/10/11/995131/restaurant-company-uses-obamacare-as-an-excuse-to-shift-to-part-time-workers/)

Any company responsible to its owners will be looking at the same loophole, which Congress probably will close quickly. McDonald's, Papa John's, Applebees, Wal-Mart, and others have boasted about seeking ways lower health care costs that don't yet exist. American businesses need to study the repercussions of punishing employees for the health care law.

Darden is paying the price.  The company warned of a lower earnings estimate for fiscal year 2013 on Tuesday, citing in part the media’s reporting on the company’s handling of the new health care law. "Our outlook for the year also reflects the potential impact, though difficult to measure, of recent negative media coverage that focused on Darden within the full-service segment and how we might accommodate healthcare reform," Darden CEO and Chairman Clarence Otis said in a release. (http://investor.darden.com/investors/news-releases/press-release-details/2012/Darden-Restaurants-Announces-Expected-Second-Quarter-Diluted-Net-Earnings-Per-Share-and-Revises-Fiscal-Year-2013-Earnings-Out/default.aspx)

When listing changes to improve performance, the release continued, "We are also committed to accommodating healthcare reform in ways that work for our employees and guests."

That was on December 4. A December 6 release explained, what we should have said was...: "As we think about healthcare reform, while many of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's rules and regulations have yet to be finalized, we are pleased we know enough at this point to make firm and hopefully reassuring commitments to our full-time employees."  (http://investor.darden.com/investors/news-releases/press-release-details/2012/Darden-Provides-Update-on-its-Restaurant-Staffing-Plans-Under-Healthcare-Reform-Company-Announces-Commitments-to-its-Current-/default.aspx)

The release assured, "None of Darden's current full-time employees, hourly or salaried, will have their full-time status changed as a result of healthcare reform."

Some in corporate America thought they could show before the election that a vote for President Obama was a vote against the working class or or in favor of higher prices for goods and services. That backfired, leaving those executives to offer, "What we really meant to say was...."

As my mother used to tell me, watch what you say.

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