Articles and information that are no longer current,
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[photo of downtown Grecia shortly after Costa Rica beat Greece to make the FIFA World Cup Quarterfinals for the first time ever - 29 June 2014]

Surprise: You May Be an Employer and Have Legal Responsibilities 

Most Ticos try to skirt them, but the laws in Costa Rica regarding the definition of domestic and other employees and insuring them seem to be very clear. People working in the house where the work is not dangerous are considered domestic employees while people working outside, such as gardeners, are not considered "domestic" employees as their work is considered more dangerous. Typically gardeners, housekeepers and cooks, are considered to be your employees even if they only work for you more than three days per month. However, what is not entirely clear is whether this means a full day of work or part of a day. (If you have a housekeeper that comes once a week for five hours a day this is more than three days per month, but less than the equivalent of three full eight-hour work days.) You are required to provide medical insurance, workman's comp and other compensation to anyone employed by you. Anyone working for you less than three days per week is considered an "occasional" worker. The INS Comprehensive Homeowner's Insurance plan covers injury to occasional domestic workers but not employees.

Anyone confused yet?

In addition to gardeners, non-domestic employees can include anyone hired to do work for you of more than three days duration. (They can also be "occasional" workers that require you to have workman's comp coverage.) I was advised that you should have non-gardener workers sign a simple contract relieving you of injury liability as they are private entrepreneurs or even employers themselves and should have their own insurance coverage. Covering gardener employees is more difficult. There is insurance for them, but there are the additional insurance costs as well as other complexities involved. Some good news however: if you employ an illegal immigrant to do your gardening, I don't think you have much liability (but please don't quote me on that).

In addition to medical insurance coverage including workman's comp, any employee must be paid the equivalent salary for ten days of vacation per year. You need to figure what part of a year they work for you and pay them the equivalent salary as vacation pay (there is a great calculator in the Que Pasa "Links" section to help you with this). You also need to provide the equivalent of one-month's salary to any employee as a year-end bonus, called el Aguinaldo, (paid at the first of December every year). And, if a worker leaves you (and I believe this means whether they leave voluntarily or if you dismiss them), they need to given one month of wages for every year in your service up to eight years.

Whether legal or not, I have been advised that if a worker or their spouse is enrolled in CAJA, they already have medical coverage that will pay for any injuries sustained while in your employ. If they are injured on job while working for you, you can probably substitute the workman's comp coverage by personally taking them for emergency medical treatment and paying for any medical treatment not covered.

There was a good article in AM Costa Rica on Monday, 25 May 2015, that explained employment descriptions, rules and insurance options. Long-time residents have mentioned to me that the article follows the letter of the law and may introduce an unnecessary scare for expats into the topic of employment. Following the letter of the law when it comes to insuring employees or doing what seems to be common sense is up to you. See the link on the 13 most important things about employment in our Links section. However, the most important employee rules that must not be broken or bent are those of los aguinaldos and vacation and employee termination compensation.

With apologies in advance, I hope this does more to help than confuse, but I thought you should be aware.

from the Editor - June 2015

International Women’s Day - March 8

by Lucett (Lucy) Watler

Yes, this is a day to celebrate women’s achievements. It is a day to be highly inspired and empowered, because of recent fulfilled goals. However, from this new vantage point, we are able to see that there remain many more challenges to be overcome: women are still behind in educational opportunities; still not paid as their male counterparts, in equivalent positions; violence against women has increased - women continue to be  ignored, invisibilized, intimidated by their spouse or partner.

Elderly women are manipulated into believing that their incompetence justifies being dispossessed of their assets by their sons and daughters, who seem to have taken to heart the adage of old: ”Once a woman twice a child”. Babies don´t know and, therefore, need to be helped!

Yes, it will always be proper to honor the 15,000 women that, in 1908, marched through New York City demanding: voting rights, better pay and shorter working hours.  We must never forget, the 25th of March, 1908, when so many women were burned, some to death, in the tragic “Triangle Shirt Waist Company” fire.

In 1913 the International Women’s Day was moved to the 8 of March, and it has been celebrated on this day ever since.  The greatest way to honor these fallen women and those that continue to suffer, even today; the utmost contribution you and I can make to bury discriminatory practices, to guarantee a bright and rewarding future for our families, is to finally understand that the necessary change required for this to be a reality is in your hands and mine.

I challenge you to stop searching to find women´s value in what they do or in what they have. Our worth is our self worth; our significance is in WHO WE ARE!

Lucy Watler
Ex Coordinator and Member of the Gender Commission, Lawyer’s Bar, Costa Rica.

Comejen, Termitos y Otros Insectos

We discovered that the little, round wood balls (smaller than a grain of sand) that we started seeing as far back as a year ago was the sign of an infestation of comejen and probably other termite varieties as well. Every morning, the little wooden balls would be on the floor, on the dining table and on the sofa. The only thing above these "droppings" was our vaulted wood ceiling about 20 feet up. We learned from our online investigation and queries that while these pests are a common problem, they are also very difficult to battle and eradicate.

We immediately called an exterminator from San Jose we had used in the past. After seeing the droppings, the exterminator also said he thought we had comejen and he sprayed in the usual places exterminators spray as well as spraying the ceiling as best he could using a  tall ladder we had borrowed. In about six weeks, the droppings began to reappear.

We again contacted a bunch of our Tico friends and other long-time ex-pats. We got lots more advice and referrals. One avenue took us to a contractor recommended on the Que Pasa website. After two inspections, he said the only way for him to guarantee not having me angrily approach him in two years and tell him that the critters had returned, was to remove the mission tile, the galvanized sub-roof, metal roof support structure, wooden rafters, wooden ceiling and wooden eaves and replace every wooden piece with all new, dried hardwood and, then put the rest of the roof elements back where they belonged. He said it would take about six weeks to complete and would cost $30,000. I am certain that he was being honest and sincere about it being the only way he could guarantee results for our job, but the solution seemed extreme, as did six weeks of camping out in our home, and that quote figure was out of the question. So, we continued to look for an alternative solution.

Enter our friend, Ivo Henfling, owner of GoDutchRealty and a 30-year resident of Costa Rica and Tom Rosenberger (read about his roof services on the Que Pasa site), who both recommended we contact Jose Pedro Sanchez. Jose Pedro is a licensed engineer and owns Habitat Xeropiagas in Atenas. Jose Pedro belongs to several national and international pest control associations and is a member of an international pest control council. He's spent time working in the pest-control industry in Argentina and the States, speaks English and is one of a few formally trained pest management engineers in Costa Rica. He came out to our house with his assistant inspected and took samples (mostly for his daughter, I think, who is a biologist). Jose Pedro told us of one type of termite here that sports four identical wings. it flies fly about until it finds some nice edible cellulose, drop its wings, calls its friends. They all start dining and finally pick one of them to be transformed into the queen and, hence, a new colony of termites begins in a new location.

Jose Pedro is much in demand as our problem is common in houses of a similar wooden ceiling construction. A week after his inspection, I was finally able to reach Jose Pedro by phone again after repeated attempts and he set a tentative treatment date. I wasn't able to reach him again until the day before his crew showed up (more about why he was out of pocket and difficult to reach in an upcoming Que Pasa update). He sent his crew without him (for the same interesting reason as above). Up went enough scaffolding to reach the highest 20-foot peak of our ceiling. The treatment included techniques and equipment Jose Pedro brought with him from the States and the solution was fairly high-tech. It included: sonar detection; micro drilling; injection of a special insecticide; and a cavity expansion material.  We left the house for a few hours before a cloud spray was used to also treat the inside and outside of our eaves. The total cost of the treatment was much less than 2% of the $30,000 quote for the radical solution we had previously received. We are to keep our eyes open and if we have any further sign of the critters, the crew will return for an additional treatment.

Jose Pedro also recommended setting up a regular pest control program to discourage future infestations. With a recommendation from Que Pasa subscriber, Linn Engler, we also have hired Lawrence Delgado, a pest-control specialist from Grecia to come every four months to spray our roadpie (baseboards) and our home's exterior footprint. The first spraying was a week ago and based on all of the dead ants, spiders and even a large, deceased scorpion on the inside of our front door, the first treatment is working quite well.  

from the Editor

Summer Municipal Festivals

Virtually all municipal festivals last a little over a week and include a tope (say 'toe-pay', aka, horse parade), and most also include an amateur rodeo of sorts (with bull "chases" featuring young men and pretty girls--honestly), a parade of bands, a carnival and other entertainment. Most in our area:

If you've never attended a tope, they are a cultural icon and you should go, at least, once. However, a word of advice to the unaware: topes can be quite rowdy with too much drinking both on and off the horses. In my limited experience, the Sarchi tope is an exception. It is much smaller than most and quite civilized with much less drinking observed than at other topes.

Festival parades vary by community, but usually there will be a couple of Northern American-style high-school bands and then, many, many Latin-style marching bands supplied with a variety of instruments, but primarily drums, trumpets and xylophones plus a mixture of jugglers, motorcycle clubs, "unusual" cars and probably some other unexpected entries.

One other word of advice: never expect the event to start on time. Pura vida.

from the Editor

Some General Advice on Insect Control

My recent experience with insects reminds me to advise you that while Costa Rica's perfect weather is not only perfect for us, it is also perfect the breeding ground for insects of all varieties. They aren't going away. So, we have to co-exist with them. We just need to minimize uninvited creeping and crawling guests on our own plot of paradise.
To do this, I will pass along the recommendation I was given: spray around your house's footprint inside and out with a dual-purpose (general insect and termite) insecticide every four months including once at the beginning of the green season. Also, keep flora and foliage trimmed to, at least, 25cm away from any walls, gutters and rooflines of your home and other structures. Growing and inanimate things that touch your house create an excellent pathway of entry for unwelcome critters of all shapes and sizes.

from the Editor

January Tax Advice

If you haven't paid your Marchamo (annual vehicle license fee), you're late as your 2015 payment was due by Dec. 31, 2014. Hurry to a national bank or an INS office to make your payment, which will now include a penalty, but will grow with your inaction. Property taxes are due and payable at the offices of your local municipality. In Sarchi (Valverde Vega), along with my property tax, I also paid my entire year's basura collection fee in advance and received a discount. If you qualify, there is also an added luxury tax on your property. (I am not an expert on this tax, except to say that it is due and payable when pay your property tax.) If your house, car and/or business are under a corporation(s), head to a Banco Costa Rica (BCR) with your corporate cedula number in hand to pay the tax due by January 31. (If you are a "power user" of Costa Rican government and banking websites, I think, you can make your payment online.)

from the Editor

Sandra GamboaKeylor´s Mom

On August 15, we celebrate Mother’s Day in this beautiful land. Allow me to share with you, a brief commentary on a short life story of Sandra Gamboa, mother of Keylor Navas, published in the Journal section of La Nación on August 5, 2014.

Sandra teaches “Religión” en la Escuela 12 de Marzo, in Pérez Zeledón. She remembers when she could not pay the thousand colones (ca. two dollars) for Keylor to attend his training as a soccer goal keeper. Juan de Dios Madriz, a neighbor who recognized Keylor’s natural ability and potential to become a goalkeeper, decided to take care of the monthly fee, pay for his uniforms, and provide transportation from his home to San Andrés Pedregoso, where he trained, and back to his place.

Today, Sandra continues to teach at the same school in Pérez as she did twenty years ago. When Keylor was only four years old, Sandra left her baby under the custody of her parents, his grandparents, Elizabeth Guzmán and Juan Gamboa, to go to the United States of America with her husband. Money was lacking but commitment and conviction were ever present. Hard work in a foreign land away from home and from your loved one was not an excuse. Her parents now received from Sandra, on a religiously regular basis, all the dollars and cents she was able to round up for the support of her baby. This went on for ten years.

Keylor recently expressed his gratitude to his grandparents who took care of his upbringing by giving them a new car. More importantly, however, is his decision to honor his Mom by a life style that follows her desires, the ones she did her best to inculcate; the ones that are founded on the Christian values he learned and practiced at home, and that he will live his dream, now that he has become a team member of Real Madrid Soccer Club.

Yes, Keylor´s family story is a very trying one, nevertheless, it is a tale full of love, passion, commitment, discipline, solidarity, and foremost, one of strong family values coupled with a demonstration that your dreams can overcome your limitations. Did Sandra Gamboa ever imagine that she was raising a goal keeper of Real Madrid´s caliber? Maybe not, but she and her parents provided all the support in an environment that would permit him to excel in whatever he chose to do. Needs were never an issue.

Congratulations Sandra Gamboa for being an inspiration and a role model for so many Moms in Costa Rica.

Article published August 5, 2014 in La Nación´s Journal by José Rodríguez.

Commented by Lucett (Lucy) Watler: 

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