What's the difference between an "employee" and an "associate"?

I've noticed in recent years that many stores have posted signs which refer to their retail workers as "associates" rather than "employees". Is there an actual difference between the two positions (i.e. does an associate have better pay or benefits, is harder to fire, etc.), or is it just... show more I've noticed in recent years that many stores have posted signs which refer to their retail workers as "associates" rather than "employees". Is there an actual difference between the two positions (i.e. does an associate have better pay or benefits, is harder to fire, etc.), or is it just some new euphemism for the same good old fashioned wage slave?
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