‘Help wanted, J-1 students only’ sign irks some locals

Store owner says he needed workers who would stay 6 months

A photo of the “help wanted” sign posted on the door of ADK Outlet, shared on Facebook Wednesday, had been commented on more than 100 times by Friday evening.

LAKE PLACID — A “help wanted” sign posted at the front door of a downtown clothing store this past week has sparked controversy for being what some perceive as discriminatory against local residents.

The sign, posted by business owner Tom Dalton on the door of his store ADK Outlet, read: “Winter summer help wanted. J-1 students only. Start now.” J-1 refers to a work visa often used by foreign students.

Residents shared photos of the sign on social media and in private messages to the Enterprise. One photo of the sign posted on Facebook spread quickly, garnering 120 comments in two days. Some commenters accused the business owner, without evidence, of attempting to skirt minimum wage requirements, payroll tax requirements and other employee benefits. Others simply saw it as discriminatory against locals.

“You can’t narrow down a certain group to be hired,” one commenter, Melissa Lee, wrote. “Way to screw the locals, you know?”

New requirements for applicants were later added to the sign — including a requirement that those applying guarantee at least six months of work. Another line was also tacked on: “Talking moose, $100/hr.” A few days later the sign was removed entirely and replaced with a different one that read: “No help needed this summer. (Proof there is a God.)”

This tweet directed to President Donald Trump complains that a downtown Lake Placid business hung a “help wanted” sign in its front window seeking only to hire J-1 foreign visa workers.

Dalton, 67, said it’s not true that he’s trying to avoid paying his employees a fair wage. He said he’s willing to pay anywhere from $15 to $20 per hour for an employee who remains in the position.

He said he posted the sign because he’s tired of training local people, only to have them leave the job one or two months later.

“I do not want to train people to be here for one month,” he said.

“The local people are great. You just don’t have enough people in this town.”

Dalton said that he once owned three stores on Lake Placid’s main strip but had to close two of them because he “couldn’t find help.”

An updated sign seen on the door of ADK Outlet Friday says the store is no longer looking for help. (Enterprise photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

“Unemployment is very low right now,” he added.

But students with J-1 visas “have to be here for six months,” he said. “They don’t leave until the middle or end of October.”

If businesses didn’t hire students with J-1 visas, “almost every place in the United States would be closed,” Dalton said.

Dalton said that he’s giving the business to his nephews, who he said are set to arrive in the area this coming Tuesday. Because of that, the ADK Outlet is no longer hiring for the season, he said.