Alex Mahadevan - The Penny Hoarder

Military veterans just got a big educational boost with the flick of a pen from President Donald Trump.

On Wednesday, Trump signed the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, which expands the reach of the 1944 GI Bill.

The move stretches access to free college tuition across a wider swath of veterans and their families and extends the time they have to take advantage of it.

The bill passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

“This legislation will enable veterans to use the education benefits they’ve earned through the GI Bill when and how it suits them best, setting them up for future success in whatever career they pursue,” said U.S. Representative Phil Roe in a statement.

Here’s What the “Forever GI Bill” Means for Military Veterans

The new bill, referred to as the Forever GI Bill, gets rid of the 15-year time limit veterans have to use their benefits after a 90-day stretch of active duty.

That aspect of the legislation goes into effect right away and applies to anyone who left the service after the start of 2013 and the families of service members, according to an article in the Military Times.

The new law also grants veterans who are studying certain science, technology, engineering or math majors enough money for an extra year of school, on a first-come first-serve basis.

The bill helps out student veterans hit by sudden college closures, such as the Corinthian Colleges bankruptcy in 2015 (though students will also be getting a payday from that incident thanks to a class-action settlement).

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will restore benefits to veterans affected by school shutdowns.

“We’ve been getting calls for several years now, beginning with the collapse of Corinthian (Colleges), from student veterans whose lives were put on hold,” Will Hubbard, the Student Veterans of America vice president of government affairs, said in an interview with the Military Times. “Every day we wasted until it passed was another day that they had to wait.”

How to Claim Your GI Bill Benefits

To check on your eligibility for GI Bill benefits, visit the Department of Veterans Affairs website.

You can apply for educational benefits online or in person at your local Veterans Affairs office. You can even check this nifty map to see how quickly your closest office is processing claims for benefits.

Be sure to check out that Military Times article for a detailed rundown of the Forever GI Bill, and enjoy hundreds of other benefits of your service.

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder.

Last year, right before I was supposed to march in a Christmas parade with my work colleagues, I tweaked my back at the gym and woke up the next day barely able to walk.

My monstrous ego had sidelined me yet again — and I was supposed to be the snowman!

I checked out my options.

See a chiropractor? Two hundred dollars a session.

Go to an urgent care clinic and get medication? Did I really want pay the $100 co-pay and get prescribed drugs that are the source of a national public health emergency?

Acupuncture? I can barely give blood, let alone allow someone to stick me with hundreds of needles.

OK, how about a simple $30 massage? Just. Don’t. Touch. Me.

I ended up wallowing in pain for two months, unable to pick up so much as a fork. I worked a cushy writing job, so I didn’t have to miss work, but millions of Americans aren’t so lucky.

In fact, back pain costs the U.S. as a whole $90 billion every year, according to this Vox article. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

3 Simple Exercises That Can Help Your Lower Back Pain

Of course, if your lower back pain is absolutely unbearable, you could have a seriously injured spine and should definitely see a doctor. However, just moving around and light exercise can be great salves for an aching back.

Tai chi, yoga and pilates are all free general strategies for dealing with back pain, but here are three exercises you can try right now thanks to the excellent and comprehensive Vox article and spine biomechanics professor Stuart McGill.

The Curl-Up

For this one, lie down with your hands tucked underneath the arch of your back. Keep one of your legs bent and the other straight. If you have a particularly deep back arch, put one hand on top of the other so they are touching your back.

Now keep your back straight, but lift your head, shoulders and chest slightly off of the ground. Hold the position for a few seconds and return to the starting position.

The best part about this one? It also works those abs — six-pack here I come!

[caption id="attachment_64641" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]A woman laying on a yoga mat performing the curl up back exercise. Penny Hoarder writer Dana Sitar performs the curl up exercise. Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

The Bird Dog

Begin on your hand and knees on your yoga or exercise mat. Don’t arch your back or let your spine sag — keep it in a neutral position. Stretch your left arm forward while simultaneously stretching your right foot back hovering above the floor. Both your arm and your leg should be parallel to the floor.

Hold that pose for a few seconds, then return to the hands-and-knees position. Repeat with the alternate arm and leg, and you’ll be on your way to breaking free from lower back pain.

And, like the curl-up, this strengthens the abdominals as well.

[caption id="attachment_64643" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]A woman laying on a yoga mat performing the bird dog back exercise Penny Hoarder writer Dana Sitar performs the bird dog back exercise. Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

The Side Bridge

Lie straight on your side with your hip touching the mat supported by your forearm.

Lift your hips straight upward, and hold the position for a few seconds. Then repeat on the other side.

This simple exercise will also hit the abs hard.

These three stretches are just a starting point. That Vox article has tons of other ways to help solve your lower back pain without breaking the bank.

I know one thing for sure — I won’t miss another Christmas parade again.

[caption id="attachment_64644" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Penny Hoarder writer Dana Sitar performs the side bridge back exercise. Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder[/caption]

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder. He really enjoys picking heavy things up and then putting them down.

For the last few months, scientists have been ramming the significance of the coming solar eclipse down our collective throats.

“I have seen people witnessing their first eclipses. And after totality, they are down on their knees, weeping,” retired astrophysicist Fred Espenak said in an interview with NPR. "It's just an incredibly moving event.”

I totally get it. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event.

But weeping?

And if you’re really cynical like Penny Hoarder staff writer Desiree Stennett, you’re probably particularly unenthused with all the hubbub around the celestial event.

“Because it happens once in a lifetime I feel like I should I care more,” Stennett said. “But I just don’t.”

4 Ways to Make Money During the Solar Eclipse

Still, if you happen to live in the path of totality, here’s what you should care about: the sweet, sweet moola you can make taking advantage of these eclipse-chasers.

Taking advantage is the wrong word -- enhancing the solar eclipse experience, is what I mean.

Try these few ways to make it rain during the solar eclipse.

1. Make Your Own Solar Eclipse Viewers -- Then Sell Them

Although there are ways to get free glasses to protect your precious eyes during the eclipse, supplies appear to be running low. And, as we found out this week, there were a few unsavory characters selling fake ones on Amazon.

But with some cardboard boxes, duct tape, foil and a sheet of white paper, you can whip up your own awesome contraption for viewing the eclipse.

Give your DIY creation a cool name (I’m thinking “The Eyeball Guardian” or “The Magic Box of Wonder”), then sell them for $5 a piece.

And if you live along the eclipse path, you should have plenty of people in town ready to plop down some cash for a better viewing.

2. Rent Out Your Backyard to Outdoorsy People in Town for the Solar Eclipse

Most of the people I know traveling the country to catch the best view of the eclipse are your classic outdoorsy camper-types.

So if you happen to have a backyard and live in a town with a mild climate, you can make some extra scratch by renting out tents to eclipse tourists. For real.

California resident John Potter did and made $1,380 a month.

But, you should consider the obvious approach and rent out a room in your actual house on Airbnb, as well. The demand for lodging in totality towns should send prices soaring -- and fill your pockets.

3. Throw a Radical Solar Eclipse Viewing Party and Charge for Parking

Here’s another money-making strategy for those blessed with a backyard in the eclipse’s path: Throw an awesome solar eclipse viewing party.

NASA has a handy checklist for planning the best solar eclipse party in the universe.

Unfortunately, most of the games are for kids, but I’m sure you can come up with some fun drinking games for adults. “Drink Every Time The Moon Covers the Sun” is a classic.

Here’s a recipe for a solar eclipse cocktail, but we recommend a shot of Jägermeister on top of peach schnapps. Sounds terrible, but it’s like the perfect representation of an eclipse, right?

And if you throw your party on a budget and charge $20 a vehicle for the event, you should be swimming in quick cash. All thanks to the solar eclipse.

4. Photograph the Solar Eclipse for the People Who Want to Actually Want to Watch It

You only have a few minutes to take in the solar eclipse, so it’s probably a bad idea to try to snap pictures and miss the real-life experience.

That is, unless you don’t give a hoot about the whole thing.

Charge attendees at your viewing party for digital prints of the eclipse, or sell your pictures online. It won’t matter if you spend the whole eclipse trying to snag the perfect capture.

Espenak, the retired astrophysicist from earlier, has a wealth of tips on photographing the event. I tend to trust him, as he’s witnessed 27 eclipses in his lifetime.

And even if you don’t want to make money from the solar eclipse, there are also lots of deals out there on everything from stamps to donuts and beer. Because it’s saving money on Earth that truly matters, right?

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder.

A new study by the behemoth research firm RAND Corporation says that you’re probably overworked and stressed out.

Tell us something we don’t know, RAND.

Still, the American Working Conditions Survey, an analysis of more than 2,000 U.S. workers, does provide a new, comprehensive look at the dire conditions of current work culture in this country. (As depressing as it is.)

Specifically, two-thirds of those surveyed said they work in high-paced environments with tight deadlines, and 27% of workers said they don’t have enough time to finish their assignments at the office.

Nearly one-fourth of Americans are working more than 48 hours a week, according to the study, and half said they have to work in their free time.

Even as companies expect workers to finish projects on their own time, more than 35% of employees surveyed said they have no flexibility in setting their actual work schedule. Way to not return the favor, boss.

A little more than 19% of people said they work in a hostile office environment. That includes sexual harassment or bullying, verbal abuse and humiliation. Two percent of workers said they’d actually experienced physical abuse in the last month at work.

And on and on and on the study goes, down a rabbit hole of soul-sucking statistics about the American workplace.

“I was surprised how taxing the workplace appears to be, both for less-educated and for more-educated workers,” said adjunct RAND economist Nicole Maestas, the lead author of the study, in a news release. “Work is taxing at the office and it's taxing when it spills out of the workplace into people's family lives.”

I mean, Americans reportedly take an average of four days off work each year just to catch up on sleep.

Not a good look, employers.

But you don’t have to get caught up in the pressure, anxiety and drama at the office.

You Don’t Have to Give Into Workplace Anxiety and Stress

When long newspaper production days used to work me into anxiety attacks, I had a particularly well-balanced colleague who used to tell me: “Remember, when it comes down to it, nothing really matters anyway. So just, like, don’t care.”

Philosopher and business consultant Andrew Taggart agrees… sort of. The key is not apathy, but letting go of the pressure that how happy you are is tied to how successful you are on the job.

“By caring about work a little less, we can afford ourselves experiences of what is truly meaningful, and let us rest for a while in the unfolding present, Taggart says.

But what if you want something you can do right now to tackle those stressors?

There Are Plenty of Ways to Decompress Your Work Stress

Mindfulness is a proven strategy for escaping work stressors. Here at The Penny Hoarder, we have 20 minutes a day set aside for just that.

In only five steps, you could be on the way to a clearer and less stressed mind.

But If you’re like me, and have trouble silencing the hordes of screaming voices of anxiety in your head, there are other ways to tackle work stress besides training your mind (though it has really helped me).

Exercise is a great way to release endorphins and take your brain out of the equation. If I don’t get an hour at the gym before work, my anxiety is through the roof for the whole day.

And you can find your iron dojo for pretty cheap.

Put down the beer, and opt for a bath or nap instead. That “me” time is important.

And please for the sake of all that is holy, take a dang vacation. And unplug while you’re at it.

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder. Mindfulness training has helped untangle his high-strung ball of anxiety… a bit.

As more companies deal with the fallout of lax or nonexistent labor policies, Oregon has stepped up to become the first state to address a glaring worker issue: Scheduling uncertainty.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed into law this week a mandate that employers give at least a week’s notice before putting a worker’s name on the schedule, according to an article in CNN Money. No more last minute Ubers or babysitters for Oregonians!

The move comes as employment in industries most vulnerable to last-minute scheduling has exploded.

Since January 2010, jobs in the restaurant industry have grown at double the pace of all employment in the U.S., according to statistics provided by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

In the latest jobs report from July alone, “food and drinking places” added a whopping 53,100 jobs over the same month last year. That’s the most out of any specialized industry during the same time period — in fact, it’s more than the entire professional and business service sector.

These are jobs that are pretty flexible, with no experience and minimal training required. So this could only be great news, right?


Labor Laws Offer Little Protection for Restaurant Workers

The explosion in growth is not necessarily a good thing, according to a recent article in the Atlantic that highlights the growth in restaurant gigs.

“Jobs are jobs, but these ones don’t pay very well,” the article says. “The typical private-sector job pays about $22 an hour. The typical restaurant job pays about $12.50.”

And these types of service-industry jobs are the most vulnerable to less-than-perfect working conditions and benefits. (Cough, Chipotle, cough.)

But nothing affects this sector quite like the lack of a federal law on scheduling uncertainty. As a waiter, your manager can put you on the weekly schedule at the last minute — your personal life, transportation or other considerations be damned.

But that could be changing with Oregon’s help.

Oregon Bolsters its Labor Laws With New Work-Week Mandate

The law, which will take effect in July 2018, applies to retail, hospitality and food-service companies with at least 500 global employees. It also requires employees to give workers 10 hours off between shifts.

It’s a big deal, too.

One in six Oregonians surveyed by the University of Oregon for a February study said they received less than 24 hours notice before their boss put them on the schedule.

That analysis blames the rise of irregular scheduling on new software that uses real-time data to predict how many customers are slated to demand a certain service each day. Thanks, robots — first you try to take our jobs, now you’re screwing with our schedules?

Cities like New York, Seattle and San Francisco have adopted similar legislation, according to CNN Money. But workers in the other 12,000-plus cities and 49 states are out of luck for now.

With the restaurant industry driving job growth in the U.S., it should be a matter of time before more municipalities and states follow suit.

We hope.

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder. He dealt with scheduling problems when he was a waiter at a sushi restaurant while working his way through college.

Well, it happened again.

Another month, another record number of job openings in the U.S.

In June, there were 6.2 million openings across the country, which is up 11% over the same month in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data released on Tuesday.

It’s the first time the numbers, adjusted for seasonal changes, have topped 6 million since the BLS started tracking them in 2007.

Sounds like deja vu, right? Last time we highlighted these figures, we were a little bit skeptical.

I mean, come on — does it truly feel like there are 6 million jobs openings in the country?

Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute told us back then that our cynicism was well-placed. There were plenty of job openings in April, but new hiring actually fell by 64,000 from April 2016 to the same month this year.

“There seems to be an unwillingness to offer higher wages,” Gould said at the time. “You’d see that hire rate pick up if firms were offering higher wages.”

Fast forward a few months, and companies ended up hiring 178,000 new workers when you compare this June with the job market last June. Talk about a summer turnaround.

But where should you be looking if you need one of these millions of jobs? We’ve got you covered.

Which Industries Have the Most Job Openings?

The top five industries in terms of job openings are in the business and professional; healthcare; trade, transportation and utilities; and hospitality and food-service industries. 

The professional and business sector is pretty wide-ranging, so it’s not a surprise it has more than 1.2 million available jobs.

Health care jobs are usually recession-proof and grow steadily through good times as well. The best part? Most don’t even require a bachelor’s degree!

An overlap of the health care and hospitality sectors particularly stood out to us, especially after reading the International SPA Association’s U.S. Spa Industry Study.

For the first time in the history of the study, for which ISPA taps PwC for its analysis, the annual number of spa visits topped 180 million.

At 184 million spa visits in 2016, the number of people treating themselves jumped 2.5% over the last year. That means: Jobs.

“An increase in visits means higher demand of spa services, which demonstrates a very positive outlook,” says ISPA President Lynne McNees in a statement. “As jobs are created to meet this demand, we will continue to promote the benefits of a career in the spa industry.”

There are nearly 33,000 open jobs in the spa industry, according to the study. And they offer flexibility that the modern worker demands. Plus, all those tips could mean a decent income without a college degree.

Prefer not to touch all those icky humans? You could always become a dog masseuse.

And, as always, make sure to check out The Penny Hoarder Jobs Facebook page for a vast assortment of opportunities. Come on, there are more than 6 million out there, right?

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder. His dog Josie is already too spoiled for a dog massage — or is she?

When Ali Kothari and Johnny Fayad launched their business as freshmen at Northeastern University, they had two goals: Get into the local Shaw’s grocery store — and sell a million of their coffee bars.

Four years, a new name and a few new employees later, they’ve smashed both.

Fayad and Kothari have both gotten their diplomas, and Eat Your Coffee is now in 1,000 stores — more than triple the 300 they had when we met the pair in 2016. Deals with Texas-based H-E-B grocery stores and and midwest retailer Meijer drove that expansion.

Now with Vice President of Marketing Kate Prince, whom they hired last summer, on board, they are seeing growth most entrepreneurs only dream about.

Oh yeah, and they’re all under 30 years old.

“Now what’s exciting is we’re able to dedicate 100% of our time to the company,” said Kothari, noting that while in school they had to at least show up for class to get the attendance points.

And now they’re thinking outside the bar.

But First -- How the Heck Can You Eat Coffee?

Yes, coffee is a liquid. I’m a smart guy, so I know these kinds of things.

Kothari and Fayad found that in the rush to catch an 8 a.m. class (ah, college, when 8 a.m. was considered early), it just took too long to brew up a cup of joe and eat the most important meal of the day.

So in 2013, they combined the two -- coffee and breakfast -- into CoffeeBars and launched New Grounds Foods, which was the company’s original name, in Boston with the help of a $500 prize from the Husky Startup Challenge.

The pair used Kickstarter, which has become crucial to their business model, to raise more than $44,000 in less than two months.

Right now, Eat Your Coffee pays BumbleBar, an organic protein bar manufacturer based in Spokane, Washington, to produce its three flavors of CoffeeBars: Mocha Latte, Coconut Mocha and Caramel Macchiato. The last production run resulted in nearly 100,000 bars, Kothari said.

How These Young Entrepreneurs Are Handling Major Growth

Though Eat Your Coffee still operates at a loss, Fayad said he’s close to wrapping a significant round of funding from investors who want to get in at the ground floor of their business.

“Honestly, I attribute a lot of that growth to the product,” said Fayad.

But the company’s growth is also rooted in the knowledge the pair picked up along the way. Although Fayad made and sold longboards when he was younger, and Kothari watched his father start a half dozen business growing up, neither one of them had experience with a major manufacturing operation.

Prince, the relatively new hire, is by far the most experienced one of the group. She’s 29 years old, while Kothari is 22 and Fayad 23. She spent six years at General Mills before she was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug.

“We made a lot of mistakes the first year learning to navigate the sales process,” Fayad said. “Obviously we’re still making mistakes and still learning, but we’re doing a lot better.”

Despite the company’s success, growing pains have cropped up for the young entrepreneurs.

In May, Eat Your Coffee (then New Grounds Foods) had a deal to supply H-E-B with Eat Your Coffee Bars, but a misforecast led to them not having enough bars to stock the Texas grocery stores.

“Production is probably one of the larger issues we face, primarily from the forecasting side,” says Kothari, the financial quant of the the company.

They still landed the contract, but the memory of that challenge won’t go away soon.

But the wins keep coming, as all three of the top executives point to the Meijer deal as one of the highs of running a startup during a massive growth phase.

“We kind of took risk launching there, we didn’t know how it would be received,” Fayad said. “It ended up turning out really well.”

Thinking Outside the Bar… and the (Big) Box (Retailer)

The company is at a major crossroads right now, as it’s currently undergoing a complete re-branding effort along with its fundraising round.

But, in the company’s immediate future, it’s going back to a model that sparked the growth Eat Your Coffee is seeing today: another Kickstarter campaign.

To help pay for production of a new flavor, the firm will ask backers to pony up $20,000 in the newest crowdfunding effort.

For now, they’re sticking to their core product, but Prince said they have a big vision for expanding into other areas of the grocery store.

“We’re definitely looking to expand beyond that aisle,” said Prince, noting the company will rely on its brand image to move into other snacking area — think granolas, cereals or bite-sized versions of the original Eat Your Coffee Bar. “After we feel we have a brand that can stand on its own, that’s when we’ll start looking at other categories.”

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder. He prefers his coffee in liquid form.

Call it the Amazon Effect.

The behemoth online retailer’s influence on U.S. jobs surfaced in a big way in the latest jobs report posted Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Mainly, it likely kept the beleaguered retail industry from slipping into negative job growth at a time when the rest of the economy is humming right along with a 4.3% unemployment rate.

Overall, jobs in the retail industry grew 0.2% in July compared to the same month in 2016. Meanwhile, employment at non-store retailers (ahem, Amazon) jumped 5.2% — that’s a heck of lot more than the overall private employment gain of 1.6% in July.

Amazon delivered in other parts of the economy as well. Warehousing and storage jobs catapulted upwards 3.7% last month.

Amazon Has Been on a Major Hiring Binge This Year

The fact that Amazon is killing the hiring game shouldn’t be a surprise if you’ve been keeping up with our jobs coverage.

This month alone, the company aims to add 50,000 part- and full-time employees at 10 fulfillment centers after holding its Jobs Day event earlier this week. That follows Amazon’s promise to hire 100,000 people this year.

And it’s not just warehouse jobs, Amazon is also hiring tons of seasonal customer service associates to help out with holiday orders.

Good for Amazon, But How’s the Rest of the Retail Sector Doing?

Now, Amazon may have been the Atlas to the rest of the country’s retail scene last month, but for the rest of the industry, things were pretty dire.

You had some slight winners in job growth, such as car parts dealers, which added 35,900 over the last year. And gas stations nearly grew with the rest of the economy with an additional 11,800 new jobs.

Still, as you can see in that nifty chart, most retail stores have shed jobs over the last year.

The biggest loser? Electronics and appliance retailers, with their workforce shrinking just under 4% from July 2016 through last month.

Yikes. But not surprising considering Radioshack’s massive corporate auction earlier this year (admit it, you bid on the gold album of trucker songs).

Sporting goods stores and clothing stores didn’t fare well either. And nearly 3,000 well-known retail stores are slated to close this year.

So what should you do if you end up on the unfortunate end of this trend?

First, know your rights if your employer files for bankruptcy. Accrued vacation or sick leave pay might be coming your way, and retirement benefits should be fine.

Next, find a side gig until you’re able to land another full-time job. I hear Amazon is hiring…

Amazon not the employer you’re looking for? Check out The Penny Hoarder Jobs page on Facebook for all sorts (get it? “Sort,” like at a fulfillment center?) of postings.

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder.

As you must already know, Charles E. Cheese’s middle name is Entertainment.

What? You didn’t know that?

Either way, the name suits the mascot of the pizza-focused entertainment center Chuck E. Cheese’s. And it definitely suits the sweet new deal it’s slinging as summer comes to a close.

From now through Aug. 31, when you spend $20 on games at Chuck E. Cheese’s, you get $20 in free games. Yeah, that’s right. Twenty bucks’ worth of Skee-Ball, Whack-a-Mole and other fun, yet oddly frustrating, games.

It’s a perfect fit if your kid has a birthday coming up, or you just want to celebrate the end of summer (and some much needed freedom from said kid).

How to Get Your Free $20 in Games from Chuck E. Cheese’s

Print out this coupon -- or just have it ready on your phone or tablet -- and present it at your next visit to a participating Chuck E’ Cheese’s. Then get ready for double the fun for $20.

There are some limitations: You can only use one coupon per check, and each guest can only redeem one coupon per day. The deal is only valid on weekdays, and you cannot redeem the deal Chuck E. Cheese’s locations in Hawaii.

Now, get out there and start gaming! And save me a Skee-Ball round and a slice, OK?

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder. He was mostly a Discovery Zone kid, but he once ate an entire Chuck E. Cheese’s pizza by himself.

If you’re a banker, financial planner or manager in an office job, you probably have regular access to paid sick days.

If you’re a waiter, you probably don’t.

That’s the conclusion in the latest data on workplace benefits released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In March, 93% of workers in the management, business and financial occupations had access to paid leave, while only 46% of service industry employees had those benefits.

Here’s a breakdown of the occupations the BLS studied and the probability that workers in each job type had paid sick days:

  • Management, business and financial: 93%
  • Professional and related: 85%
  • Office and administrative support: 79%
  • Installation, maintenance and repair: 73%
  • Sales and related: 64%
  • Transportation and material moving: 63%
  • Production: 62%
  • Construction, extraction, farming, fishing and forestry: 47%
  • Service: 46%

As of June, there were 27.4 million service workers in the U.S., meaning about 14.8 million employees had to either suck it up and go to work when they were sick, or forego much needed pay and take a sick day.

That’s compared to 1.7 million workers in management, business or financial jobs.

Not Offering Paid Sick Leave Has Its Consequences

The U.S. doesn’t currently have a mandate on paid sick leave, but these five states do. And non-profit workers’ rights organization Workplace Fairness has a list of cities that offer paid days off if you’re ill.

But even with sick-day policies in place, things can go awry. Although Chipotle does offer paid sick days, it recently learned the consequences of not enforcing that policy. A worker caused the company’s latest taco tragedy when they came to work ill and ended up infecting more than 100 customers at a location in Sterling, Virginia.

Chipotle has since established wellness screenings at its restaurants to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But such low numbers in service occupations offering paid sick days means plenty of other companies aren’t offering the benefit.

So, think about that number again: 46%. The real question is, who will be the next Chipotle?

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder.

For most kids, summer is a blast. Freedom, no homework, sleepovers and sleeping in.

But hunger doesn’t take a summer vacation, and according to a report by Feeding America, more than 13 million kids and teens live in households that can’t consistently provide nutritious meals.

In the dog days of summer, schools can’t be the ones to help provide every kid regular lunches — and only 1 in 6 students who qualified for reduced lunch programs in the 2014-15 school year also received free lunches in the summer.

So libraries have stepped in to help.

With support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program, libraries across the country are providing free lunches for students 18 and younger. No library card required.

“Libraries see that kids in their communities are hungry,” California State Library programs consultant Natalie Cole said in an interview with The New York Times. “We are not only providing meals. We are providing learning opportunities and keeping kids reading all summer long.”

How to Find Your Local Lunch at the Library Program

Although summer is nearing its end, there are still plenty of libraries participating in the Lunch at the Library program.

The USDA has a handy map to help you find the closest site serving free summer lunches. Just click on the “Find Sites” button and enter your address, or even just your city, to find the nearest location.

And the best part is that the USDA’s program isn’t limited to just libraries (though for us bookish folks, there’s nothing like eating with a good book). Around The Penny Hoarder headquarters in St. Petersburg, Florida, recreation centers, parks and schools are all participating.

Other organizations are helping out, as well. The YMCA’s Summer Food Program will serve 7.2 million meals and snacks by the time this summer comes to a close.

But what better way to fill the summer gap with a few hours around books?

“We have a lot of kids who come here and spend all day in the library in the summer,” said St. Petersburg Library Youth Services Coordinator Paula Alexis. “So they come in, and there’s a hot meal for them.”

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder.

Oh no, Chipotle. Not again.

Earlier this month, Chipotle was hit with another foodborne illness outbreak. And it turns out a sole sick employee was responsible.

A norovirus contamination that affected more than 100 customers at a Sterling, Virginia, location was due to a single employee coming into work with sickness, Chipotle CEO Steve Ells said in a conference call with investors, CNBC reported Tuesday.

It’s just another recent setback for the beleaguered burrito chain, whose stock has fallen 8% since Tuesday.

So after the fallout from the E. coli outbreak two years ago and fanfare about changes to restaurant food-safety policies following the incidents, how does something like this happen?

It’s a stark example of the problems with sick leave allowance and adherence in the U.S.

Chipotle Blames Local Management for Norovirus Outbreak

Although Chipotle does have a paid sick-leave policy for employees, the Sterling store was apparently not enforcing it.

"We conducted a thorough investigation, and it revealed that our leadership there didn't strictly adhere to our company protocols," Ells said during the investor call, according to CNBC.

And the practice may have been occurring at other locations throughout the U.S.

“My boss has told me that I have no option but to come in tomorrow, and it’s been heavily implied that my job will be in jeopardy if I [sic] don't come in,” wrote Missouri-based Reddit user uglydarby in a post in the Chipotle subreddit a month ago.

The user wasn’t fired, but the absence was “frowned upon,” CNBC reports.

Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold told CNBC that the firm has added daily wellness screenings to its restaurant protocols.

“If any employees report symptoms of illness, [they] are excused from work until they are feeling better,” Arnold said.

Why a Paid Sick-Day Policy Is Important for Workers

Sick leave is an important benefit, especially for low-wage workers, for whom a single unpaid sick day can cost an entire month of medication, vegetables or car insurance.

Despite its advantages for staff and customers, some companies are still resistant to offer it as a benefit.

In 2011, Jimmy John’s fired six workers for making a meme calling attention to the fact that the company doesn’t offer sick leave and may be putting customers at risk. The news resurfaced after a judge recently ruled the company was justified in dismissing the employees.

Jimmy John’s certainly isn’t the only firm denying these perks to employees. In fact, about 50 million U.S. workers don’t have access to paid sick days, and because of that, 1.5 million go to work sick every week, according to a 2016 New York Times article.

With nearly half of all U.S. workers lacking some form of paid sick leave, maybe it’s time to make like other industrialized nations and create a federal mandate, which the U.S. currently lacks.

And for real, Chipotle employees already have it hard enough with jokers like the guy who asked for staff to individually pack all of his ingredients. They deserve a day off — especially if they’re sick.

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder.