Immigration Conundrums

We have all seen it on television: crowds of immigrants protesting current immigration laws. These days, in New Jersey, as in most coastal states, as well as states that border Mexico, immigration is a very real issue for many of us. Even if our families can point to several generations of U.S. citizenship, immigration affects our daily life.

Every one of us knows someone who was born in another country. Are they here in the United States legally? Do they have the proper visas to allow them work? We never ask these questions of our friends and neighbors. And often we try not to ask them of employees, either. In fact, just asking that question in a job interview can hold an employer liable to a discrimination lawsuit, says Ryan Stark Lilienthal, an attorney with offices at 206 Nassau Street who focuses on immigration law.

The "crazy tightrope" of immigration rules and regulations means that, on the one hand, an employer can be sued for asking the wrong questions about immigration status. On the other hand, if he hires an illegal immigrant, he may be subject to legal penalties.

Lilienthal discusses "Immigration Law Opportunities and Obstacles: What You Should Know When Employing Immigrants" at a seminar sponsored by the Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, June 29, at 8 a.m. at the chamber’s new office at 1A Quakerbridge Plaza Drive, Mercerville. Cost: $30. Call 609-689-9960 to register or for more information.

Different types of status. "There are several different types of status," explains Lilienthal. A person’s status can range from undocumented, or people who have either entered the country illegally or have overstayed their legal visa, on one extreme, to U.S. citizens with full status, on the other.

In between, he says, are different levels of visas. Immigrants can hold an H-1B visa, for professional workers or an H-2B visa, for seasonal workers, such as agricultural workers, landscapers, and people who are employed in the tourist industry.

Another level is permanent residents, or people who are listed as refugees or seeking political asylum. Permanent resident visas are also often called "green cards," even though the cards are no longer green. Permanent residents have rights that are "one step down from U.S. citizens," say Lilienthal. While they cannot vote, they can work and have all of the other benefits of U.S. citizens.

Opportunities and challenges. The complex immigration laws offer both opportunities and challenges for employers, says Lilienthal. While employers are required to verify that the people they employ are in the country legally, they must be careful how they ask about employment status. "I suggest they ask for an I-9 (a federal government form that verifies a person’s authorization to work)," he says.

Asking for other documents, such as a passport, a "green card" or other proof of immigration status can leave the employer open to changes of discrimination.

According to information put out by the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, "It is illegal to discriminate against any individual (other than an alien not authorized to work in the U.S.) in hiring, discharging, recruiting, or referring for a fee because of that individual’s national origin or citizenship status."

This means, says Lilienthal, that an employer cannot "decide to hire only U.S. citizens." The issue can get particularly sensitive if an employer receives a "no match" notification from Social Security. This is a letter advising the employer that the Social Security number for a particular employee either does not exist or does not match the name the employer has with the number.

"You cannot just fire someone because you get a no match letter," says Lilienthal. "There may be any number of legitimate reasons for it." It may be a simple clerical error, or a person may have gotten married and forgotten to notify Social Security about her new married name.

New regulations. The government is currently in the process of producing new regulations and requirements on how an employer should respond to a no match letter, says Lilienthal. While it is unclear exactly what these new regulations will demand of the employer, they will require a good faith effort to clear up the no match problem. But as things stand now, employers walk a fine line between anti-discrimination laws and immigration regulations.

Contradictory legislation. Currently both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate have proposals on the floor to help deal with immigration issues. Something must be done, says Lilienthal, because there are 11 to 12 million illegal immigrants are living in this country.

The two proposals take opposite views in dealing with the issue, however. The Senate proposal, which Lilienthal favors, provides a vehicle for many immigrants to legalize their status, as well as for employers to "hire people in the right way." The House bill, on the other hand, takes what Lilienthal sees as a "mean spirited" attitude toward immigration. It would make not only the immigrants who have entered the country without a visa a criminal, but anyone who "tries to give them assistance would also become a criminal," he says. This includes lawyers who work to gain legal status for immigrants as well as employers. "Even a volunteer in a woman’s shelter who helped a woman who is not a legal resident would become a criminal" under the House bill, he says.

These criminal liabilities don’t exist now, but the situation for immigrants – and for those who need their labor – still presents serious dilemmas. There is now no way for employers in many professions to legally hire someone from another country, says Lilienthal. This is so because work visas are not available for people in many trades, including the food service industry and most areas of the construction industry.

"There are no visas available, so often employers are forced to hire people who are not legal," says Lilienthal.

There are visas available for seasonal workers, but there are not nearly enough of them. There are two types of visas for seasonal workers: H-2A, for agricultural workers, and H-2B, for other types of workers. In theory these visas allow an employer to bring someone into the United States for a variety of jobs from agriculture to landscaping to jobs in tourist industries. The problem, says Lilienthal, is the number of these visas available.

"There are only 66,000 H-2A visas for the entire country and 65,000 H-2B visas," he says. "I’m not sure that is enough for New Jersey, let alone the whole country, especially when you consider that 25 percent of our agricultural workers are immigrants."

Lilienthal says his interest in immigration law stems from his own family background. "All four of my grandparents fled Nazi Germany for this country, and I had a number of relations who were killed in Germany during that time. That is my backdrop to life in the United States."

After receiving a B.A. from Tufts University, Lilienthal worked as an immigration policy lobbyist in Washington D.C., dealing with Haitian boat people in the 1990s as well as Somali and Rawandan refugees. He received his law degree from Brooklyn Law School and prior to working in private practice he litigated immigration cases involving Constitutional issues through a fellowship at the American Civil Liberties Union, and also received a fellowship to work with asylum applicants at the New York Association for New Americans.

In his current practice he works for both immigrants and their employers. In a few of the cases the immigrant qualifies to apply for permanent resident status immediately, however, those cases are very few. "The vast majority of people don’t have that opportunity," he says. "They are waiting for the laws to change."

An employer can begin the sponsorship process for an employee who does not have the appropriate papers. However, for both employer and employee, it is a gamble. This is so because just getting the process going means providing information to the government that the person is in the country illegally – and that the employer has hired him.

It has become clear that many of our immigration laws will change in the next few years. Lilienthal and his clients are eagerly awaiting the results of these changes to see if they can get off the tightrope of questionable legal status – or questionable hiring practices.

– Karen Hodges Miller

Saturday, July 1

No Secretary? Virtual Assistants To the Rescue

Once upon a time every office, even the tiniest one-person business, had a secretary. She filed the papers and typed up notes. She handled the bookkeeping and kept track of appointments. She screened the mail and kept the boss from having to deal with endless details and distractions so that he could concentrate on getting his work done and building his business. Those days are gone.

Now even medium-sized offices with dozens of workers often don’t have a secretary or administrative assistant. Each employee, and even the boss, must handle all the time consuming details that must be accomplished to make an office run.

A combination of weariness and technology is bringing back the clerical help – but in a whole new form. The virtual assistant can handle almost every task the old-fashioned secretary handled, plus some new tasks that secretary never even thought of.

A virtual assistant is "an independent entrepreneur who provides professional administrative, creative, managerial, technical, business office, and/or personal support services," says Pamela Braue of, a business based in Jackson. "Our job is to know and understand the technology to remove all geographic boundaries and make it possible for people to work in remote locations," she says.

Braue has been a virtual assistant since 2003. She has never met most of her clients, who tend to work from distant states. Her specialty is real estate agents, for whom she works to "streamline and automate systems and processes." She aims to have six to eight clients on retainer, and has been able to consistently meet this goal. She also consults with realtors who want to set up administrative systems. A relatively new business for her is training other virtual assistants who also want to specialize in real estate.

The classes are offered online and students sign in from throughout the United States from their home computers. The next set of classes begins on Saturday, July 1, and runs for 12 weeks. Classes cost $600 and registrations are accepted at the Real Estate Virtual Assistant Training Center,, which she runs with four other VAs who share her specialty.

These classes are specifically for virtual assistants who want to specialize in real estate. Braue or one of her associates also leads programs for people new to the profession who want training as a virtual assistant, and for those who want to specialize in other areas, such as the legal or medical fields.

"Not just everyone who has a computer and an Internet connection can be a VA," she says. "It takes special training and special skills." An understanding of office management, bookkeeping, and a wide variety of software is a must. Once the basic skills are learned, the VA must continually keep up with the latest in technology, both software and Internet-based.

The profession is perfect for "educated people who have left the corporate arena, maybe someone with an administrative or business background," she says. Typical fees range from $25 to $50 an hour for a VA who does not specialize in a particular area, and $35 to $75 for VAs in a specialized field.

The VA must be willing and able to "constantly change hats," says Braue. "He or she must be very organized and be able to switch from one thing to another on a moment’s notice. If I am working on something for one client and another client calls with an emergency, I have to be able to stop and handle it."

While Braue enjoys working by herself, out of her own home, it is not for everyone. As a VA she rarely meets her clients in person. Her "networking" is done via the Internet.

Some of the services a VA can assist with include word processing, transcription, database creation and maintenance, bulk mailings, proofreading, business form development, and correspondence.

They schedule meetings, make travel arrangements, manage E-mail and website maintenance, and conduct Internet searches. Other common tasks include preparing overhead transparencies, PowerPoint presentations, and newsletters. Some professionals use VAs for help with party or event planning, online shopping, or for transferring home movies or slides to DVD.

Braue worked as a paralegal for a number of years before becoming a virtual assistant, but a daughter with a critical illness forced her to become a stay-at-home mom. When her daughter reached school age, however, Braue was ready to "find something for me." While she wanted to go back to work, she needed the flexibility of owning her own business, preferably one where she could work at home. "This was perfect for me because it put together my business management skills with my love of technology," she says. She received certification through Virtual Assistance U, another web-based training center, and then developed her own clientele with realtors.

"When I started there was no one else specializing in real estate," she said. "Other people were just out there creating a few flyers or doing desktop publishing for realtors." So after spending about two years developing her own systems she and four other real estate VAs developed their own academy. It opened its virtual doors in January, 2005 to teach VAs about the unique needs of busy real estate professionals – and how to meet them.

The classes focus on several areas:

Risk management, which deals with what a VA can and can not do as an unlicensed real estate assistant. "This is where we talk about all the legalities," says Braue.

Listing coordination, or how the VA assists the realtor with "everything that happens from signing the listing agreement to signing the contract."

Closing coordination, or how the assistant helps the realtor to go from contract to closing.

Marketing, or assisting with listings, online transaction management, and other marketing services.

The Internet continues to blur boundaries. Geographic boundaries no longer exist for many businesses, and time boundaries are also blurring. We work at home, in a car, while we are traveling. While the old reliable secretary may have been lost in the process, most of us still need help, sometimes more than ever. – Karen Miller

Thursday, July 6

Insuring Against Business Killers

What do Rita Hayworth’s legs and your trusted CFO John have in common? Both are valuable, irreplaceable business assets, worthy of insured protection. If John gets hit by a truck, both you and his widow may weep copiously at the funeral. But come Monday, it’s back to business, and with the sudden realization that he has passed on without passing on any of your company’s financial information, a very tangible sense of his loss will hit home.

Insuring against lost time, expertise, and sales until a replacement can be found and trained typically has been a consideration mostly for major corporate CEOs. Yet more often it is in the smaller firms that a handful of individuals hold irreplaceable knowledge or abilities.

To help companies determine the cost and value of such protection, the New Jersey Women Business Owners Association’s Business Center offers "Business Killers," a free seminar taking place on Thursday, July 6, at 10 a.m. at the Gloucester County Business Center in Thorofare. Visit to register.

The seminar includes a video, skits detailing mistakes, and a panel discussion with speakers representing the banking, legal, accounting, and consulting industries. Gwen Faulkner, financial service professional with the MassMutual Financial Group, speaks to specific insurance strategies.

Growing up as an Army brat, Faulkner got used to a life of uncertainty. Her father, a flight engineer for C-141s, the Air Force’s huge workhorse planes, kept the family moving until they settled in at McGuire Air Force Base. After earning her bachelor’s degree in finance from Pennsylvania’s West Chester University in 2002, Faulkner became a trade processor for Vanguard Mutual Funds. "I witnessed traders who held knowledge that no one else in the company did and who could be counted on for substantial sales," she says. Three years ago Faulkner joined MassMutual Insurance, and now works out of the firm’s Cherry Hill office.

Insuring key people has traditionally been seen as a compliment conferred by the directors and received as a status symbol by the executive. In smaller firms, such a policy, if employed at all, is generally taken out only on the owner. "But rank or past performance have nothing to do with key person insurance," insists Faulkner. "It is a matter of determining the individuals whose sudden loss would effect the bottom line." These may not necessarily be partners or upper management people.

Supposing a firm’s young sales manager provides excellent motivation and training for his sales force, and sales figures show that an amazing two-fifths of annual sales come from one aging senior salesman. Loss of the manager would entail a relatively short replacement time, with a small dip in revenue. But losing that senior salesman and all his clients might nearly sink the ship. Which of these two should be insured?

He’s worth what? Unlike a movie star’s body parts, a business person’s worth is fairly easy to calculate and less personal. The very first step before any insuring is to get an outside valuation of the company.

"This should be the real value of the firm," says Faulkner, "not the under-valuing that we so often do for the IRS."

Once the actual company’s value is determined, any individual’s percentage of that value becomes more apparent. In the case of a salesperson, it is easy to judge his annual revenue stream and figure the cost of, for example, a half-year’s replacement time. For a design engineer who is continually turning out new products, worth must be calculated in terms of the whole company’s profit picture.

Faulkner continually warns clients that insurance demands a constant reassessment of corporate value. Benefits for key person insurance depend not only on company growth, but also on the relative value of the insured individual.

Insurance as perk. Blending key person insurance in with the rest of the benefits package transforms a company safety net into a real hiring lure. For that trusted CFO to be worth anything to the firm, he must not only be alive, but also fit, alert, and able to sit at his desk and perform. This means that an increased health insurance benefit for that CFO is a wise investment.

Similarly, such additional insurances can be applied to that person’s pension plan at minimal cost.

"The whole trick to key person insurance is flexibility," says Faulkner. "Every insurance company has standard formats, yet in each case the terms are something the company can design." Blending in such additional coverages with the compensation package may tip the scales in your favor when top managerial talent is looking for a new home.

Buy-sell hedges. Business auction ledgers are rife with tales of partnerships reluctantly put on the block so the remaining partner can come up with the cash to satisfy the heirs’ inheritance. Whether the business has boomed or remained steady, partners’ fortunes tend to be fixed to their company’s growth. Thus, they seldom have enough capital to buy out the other partners’ shares.

A simple buy-out insurance plan on all the partners ensures that any surviving partner can pay off the heirs’ share without dissolving the business. Premiums here tend to be quite affordable. Yet before plunging into such an agreement, Faulkner suggests each partner get to know the heirs. Does each partner even have a will? Are the heirs interested in participating in the business, and is it worthwhile to bring them aboard now?

Ounce of prevention. There is a difference between responsibility and knowledge. It may be a fine thing for the CFO to take responsibility for every dollar in the company. It is absolutely foolhardy, however, for him to be the sole person who knows where every dollar is spent. The best insurance against sudden key person loss is to flatten the organization. By constantly sharing knowledge and preparing successors, the company is hedged against loss. This is also a good business practice because it tends to discourage fiefdoms and encourage morale, fresh ideas, and team play.

Insurance for life. South Brunswick CPA Gary Edelman was recently the recipient of another kind of key person protection. His major client was totally dependent on Edelman for his fiscal health. "He is one of those people who is an expert at making money, but has no idea how to handle it," says Edelman, who spends long sedentary hours making his business run.

To ensure that Edelman would be around to handle his finances, the client gave him and his wife memberships to Golds Gym. "I can honestly say it was better for me than the car he gave me the year before," says Edelman.

As a final caveat, Faulkner notes that while nearly all treasurers and CFOs are bonded, this does mean that they are insured. Bonding, in essence, protects the company’s safe. Insurance protects the individual, and his worth to the company. If a company is worth anything at all, it will probably outlive its current executives, so key person insurance is less a bet than an investment.

"After all, I’ve seen people insure their pets for $100,000," says Faulkner. "Hopefully, your key people are worthy of being treated at least as well."

– Bart Jackson

Options for Keeping Computer Data Safe

A recently released FBI study found that almost 90 percent of American businesses were affected by some sort of computer security attack in 2005, typically coming from viruses and spyware. The average cost associated with these attacks was over $24,000. Much of this cost is directly attributable to failed or insufficient data backup systems. Similar problems are increasingly impacting home and casual users as well.

Rescuecom (, a franchised computer repair and technology services company with an office on Harrison Street, shares tips for keeping computer data safe.

"This report shows us how vulnerable we really are. American businesses certainly know about computer threats, yet almost nine out of ten of them are still attacked," says David A. Milman, CEO of Rescuecom, which is based in Syracuse, New York, in a prepared statement. "That is a sobering reminder that all of our data – from digital photos and music to tax returns, budgets and even our identities – must be protected."

This is particularly important given the ongoing proliferation of computer viruses and spyware, which today are more potentially destructive than ever before. Even with the best virus/spyware protection software, new threats are emerging that can avoid detection and cause serious damage. As anyone who has gone through the nightmare of losing his or her information can attest, the relatively simple step of properly backing up a computer is often neglected until it’s already too late.

How to best protect and backup your computer. There are many excellent methods of saving and storing your files, many you can do yourself, and others that are done automatically off-site. Rescuecom recommends that each level of computer user consider a remote and/or tape back-up system to protect an entire system and in case of a fire or other disaster.

Also, any data that is placed on a CD, disk drive, or off-site should be encrypted, in case those back-ups are lost or misplaced. There are several additional backup options. Choosing the right one depends often depends first on identifying your user profile.

Advice for the casual user. You occasionally log on the home computer and keep a few important documents on your machine, such as tax returns, family budgets, and maybe online games and E-mail. The best way to back-up is via a CD or DVD, Zip drive or a portable "key drive," a flash memory stick about the size of a lighter.

Flash drives have become smaller and more affordable, though you must be careful not to lose them. To prevent others from gaining access to your data should your backup tapes/discs be lost or stolen, it is also important that all sensitive information be encrypted. Also, make sure that when you save to a CD or DVD you are not overwriting previous files that you have saved and will need later.

Power user. You have all your CDs downloaded to iTunes and your iPod, have pictures of all your friends’ birthdays and holidays and copies of your last five years of canceled checks on your hard drive. You’ve also saved the first draft of the great American novel and your autobiography. You use your computer on a daily basis and would be significantly inconvenienced, if not devastated, if you lost your data.

In that case the recommendation is to back up the entire system, rather than just specific files. Investing in a software program such as Norton Ghost satisfies this need by backing up your system and storing it on an external drive or storage device. The difference here is that in addition to your important files, all your software and other system components will be saved as well.

This means that besides having access to your files, you can quickly be back on line using them if your system fails. Such software is generally available for under $75. It is important to set up and adhere to a regular schedule to run these programs or other back-up options, particularly when important files have been saved to the hard drive.

A newer and potentially easier option is to engage with a remote backup service that automatically backs up your files on a nightly or more frequent basis. Disaster recovery using this option is simple and will ensure you can retrieve your critical data, though generally does not restore an entire system. There are several companies that provide this service, generally at a monthly fee based on the amount of data you store – normally between $9.95 per gigabyte and $25 per gigabyte per month. Rescuecom can provide this service for $98 per month per 10 gigabytes.

Small business owner. You run your business out of your home or you own a small business using one, several, or dozens of computers. It is crucial that your data is backed-up on a daily basis. Options include tape back up. While many think of tape as an "old" technology, advances in compression and other improvements have kept tape as one of the most reliable, consistent backup methods. It is relatively easy to automate, though to do it right it is important to store the tapes at a second location (to prevent against fire, flood, or theft), which can be a bit cumbersome. It can also be one of the more costly solutions, typically ranging between $1,000 and $10,000 for the total investment.

Another possibility for the small business is remote back up. This is an easy, worry free way to ensure that your data is safe, and is used by a growing number of small businesses. Remote backup should be done in conjunction with a tape backup regimen, if possible.

A third possibility is duplicate or mirrored drives. As the name suggests, these options simply duplicate the contents of your hard drive, providing instant online backup should the system fail. However, as these devices are on site, so if disaster hits the facility or the system, recovery can be difficult.

Large company. For organizations that cannot afford a minute of downtime this system is as fool proof as you can get. It includes creating one or more entire systems in geographically dispersed locations. The only downside is that it is far more expensive than other options.

If all is lost. Should data be lost, it may be possible to recover some or all of it. Rescuecom recommends that if data is lost everything be left alone. Do not touch anything. Do not try and do recovery yourself. This is the time to call in the experts.

When the 4th Falls On a Tuesday

It’s arguably the best holiday of all. It comes just after the longest day of the year, so, at the very least, it’s the holiday with the most daylight. It features whiz bang pynotechnics, fireflies, and absolutely no pressure to give gifts. Its signature foods – grilled hot dogs, potato salad, and ice cream cones – require no fuss whatsoever.

This year, however, many workers are going to find it hard to properly luxuriate in the freedom of the summer’s signature holiday.

This year the 4th of July falls on a Tuesday, and that leaves Monday, July 3, in holiday limbo. The major stock exchanges are open for half a day, closing at 1 p.m., while some commodity exchanges are closing at noon, and most bond markets are closing at 2 p.m. The Post Office is open, as are banks. Many offices are open, with most giving employees the option of taking July 3 as a vacation day.

Barbara Cardasco of the Employers Association of New Jersey says that her organization conducted a small poll – 100 questionnaires sent out, 25 returned – to find out how many companies are going to remain open. "Thirty-six percent have July 3 as a scheduled holiday, 64 percent don’t," she reports, adding, "I don’t know what kind of companies they are, whether or not they’re manufacturing." In addition to flat-out closing, another 20 percent of companies have put July 3 on their menu of floating holidays this year, giving employees the option of, say, taking that day off and working on Columbus Day or Good Friday.

Calls to Princeton area companies did not turn up too much additional information, as many refused to comment. But it appears that companies that work in synch with the financial markets will be open. That is the case at big companies – Merrill Lynch will be open – as well as at smaller companies – ExpertPlan, for example.

Beyond that, it appears that smaller companies are taking the day off, while larger companies will be open, but probably operating at considerably less than full strength. The Princeton Regional Chamber will be closed, but Mathematica will be open.

The one industry where most workers will indeed have a glorious 4th is communications. Red Wolf Design, Oxford Communications, Princeton Communications, and Gillespie are all going for a four-day week-end.

"It wouldn’t be economically feasible for us to be open," says Sue Adams of Princeton Communications. "We decided to stay as long as we have to on Friday night to make sure that all of Monday’s work is done before we leave."

A similar strategy is in place here at U.S. 1 Newspaper, where the goal is to get the paper ready for the printer by the end of the day on Friday, June 30, and to pull together any loose ends on Saturday so that everyone can be off on July 3 and July 4. The newspaper’s printer, with offices in Philadelphia, will be open straight through, though, giving newspapers the option of responding to breaking news changes right through the 4th.

Meanwhile, the young woman who answered the phone at Gillespie expressed the sentiment of all who will be liberated to enjoy the long summer week-end: "I just found out myself today, so I’m happy!"

So this year’s schedule is a wrap – leaving some employees feeling liberated and others cheated. It will be easier in 2009, when the 4th of July falls on a Saturday, and, thanks to Public Law 86-362, passed in 1959, the preceding Friday is a legal holiday.

Unplugging For Summer Vacation

Using Zoomerang’s survey technology (, WorldWITT, the world’s largest online community for professional women, a Chicago company founded in 1999, recently asked its 40,000 members, "Do you plan to take a vacation from work this summer?" An overwhelming 90 percent answered yes and 75 percent of those respondents say that they will be gone for a week or more at one time. In fact, 55 percent of the women surveyed said that they plan to use 50 percent or more of their 2006 vacation time in the summer months alone, though 10 percent don’t plan to take a vacation at all.

In addition, 64 percent of women, who make up nearly half of our nation’s workforce, plan to completely unplug while on vacation – leaving co-workers to fend for themselves. In fact, they vow not to check E-mail or voicemail or to take any work with them. One respondent said, "Unless the building is burning down or someone is hurt, I practice what I preach to my employees – taking time off means taking time off." Another said, "When I am on a family vacation, they are more important. Work has my attention on all the other 50 weeks of the year."

"The good news is that women are recognizing the need to separate themselves from work during their vacation – it is a time to recharge," Liz Ryan, WorldWITT CEO, said in a prepared statement. "It is important to create a time and place to decompress especially during scheduled vacations," she continued.

Ryan advises women not to combine work and vacation and has the following advice to offer to help make your time off an actual vacation:

Designate a back up. In order to successfully unplug during vacation without leaving colleagues in the lurch you must designate a specific backup or point person.

Draw your boundaries. Review the parameters under which you would need to be contacted.

Define critical.

Short-circuit any surprises. In addition, communicate, communicate, communicate! It’s vital that you remind clients, bosses, co-workers and vendors when you will be gone and for how long so that there are no surprises. Also, don’t forget to engage your "out of office" reply and include your point person’s info.

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