Should US employers still be rejecting candidates or firing employees for using marijuana? Maybe not, US Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta suggested in comments to Congress this week, according to Politico’s Morning Shift:
Acosta said Tuesday that employers should rethink the practice of drug testing every job applicant, which he suggested could keep qualified people out of the workforce. Acosta’s remarks came in response to a question from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing. Blumenauer, who’s from a state that legalized recreational marijuana, said he’s concerned that legal pot shows up “in ways that are disqualifying” on drug tests, and asked Acosta what could be done to “unleash” those workers’ potential.
“There are sometimes valid health and safety reasons why an individual that cannot pass a drug test shouldn’t hold a certain job,” Acosta said. However, he also said some employers “make the assumption that because there’s a negative result on a test they would not be a good employee.”
Acosta was testifying in a hearing on Jobs and Opportunity: Federal Perspectives on the Jobs Gap, part of a series of hearings the committee is holding as it prepares to reauthorize the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. While the secretary did not say in so many words that employers should stop drug testing their employees, he expressed the opinion that “it’s important to take a step back … and ask, are we aligning our drug policies and our drug testing policies with what’s right for the workforce?”
Blumenauer’s question to Acosta and the secretary’s less-than-categorical answer both reflect the significant degree to which employers are being forced to rethink their drug policies in light of changing attitudes toward cannabis and the growing number of jurisdictions where it has been decriminalized or legalized for either medicinal or recreational uses. Businesses have begun lobbying the Trump administration to issue guidelines on how to navigate the conflict between federal drug laws—under which marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I substance along with heroin, ecstasy, and LSD—and increasingly liberal state laws.
Salesforce has been on a quest to achieve gender pay equity across its entire workforce since 2015, when CEO Marc Benioff first announced that the company had spent $3 million assessing and closing pay gaps between its male and female employees, affecting 6 percent of its 17,000 employees, or about 1,000 people. However, as Benioff told CBS’s Lesley Stahl on “60 Minutes” last weekend, he and his leadership team at Salesforce soon discovered that closing the pay gap once wasn’t enough:
Marc Benioff: We did it the first time. We were so happy with ourselves. It was great. Then all of a sudden we kind of did our audit again and the same thing happened again. We’re, like, “How can this be?” But it turned out we had bought about two dozen companies. And guess what? When you buy a company, you just don’t buy its technology, you don’t buy its culture, you also buy its pay practices.
Lesley Stahl: So they would come in and the men were paid much more and then that got eaten up into your statistics, into your audit. So you had to redo the whole thing all over again, costing as much as the first time.
Marc Benioff: It cost us as much as the first time. In total, it’s now cost us $6 million.
Lesley Stahl: Are you gonna have to do this audit every year—
Marc Benioff: More than every year. We’re gonna have to do this continuously. This is a constant cadence. You’re gonna have to constantly monitor and keep track of that, but that’s easy today. We run our company the same way every company is run with computers and technology and software. … [T]here’s never been an easier time to make this change.
In a blog post on Tuesday, Salesforce Chief People Officer Cindy Robbins provided more detail about this year’s pay equity adjustment and how the company plans to manage the process going forward, now that they have realized the importance of addressing pay gaps continuously:
A recent report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development finds that the number of jobs at risk of displacement due to automation in the coming years is probably smaller than previous forecasts have estimated. Nonetheless, the tens of millions of workers in developed countries are still at risk of having their jobs replaced or radically altered by AI and robotics. The Verge’s James Vincent summarizes the report’s findings:
The researchers found that only 14 percent of jobs in OECD countries … are “highly automatable,” meaning their probability of automation is 70 percent or higher. This forecast … is still significant, equating to around 66 million job losses.
In America alone, for example, the report suggests that 13 million jobs will be destroyed because of automation. “As job losses are unlikely to be distributed equally across the country, this would amount to several times the disruption in local economies caused by the 1950s decline of the car industry in Detroit where changes in technology and increased automation, among other factors, caused massive job losses,” the researchers write.
The analysis from the OECD, an inter-governmental organization representing the world’s 35 richest countries, is considerably less disconcerting than previous studies that have calculated the risk of automation at anywhere from 30 percent to fully half of all the work currently being performed globally. One difference between this study and previous ones, Vincent explains, is that it pays greater attention to details like whether a job can be fully or only partly automated and the variations among jobs that may have the same title but whose work differs substantially:
Apple is adding a floor to its offices in downtown Seattle, giving the company enough room to seat nearly 500 employees there, Nat Levy reports at GeekWire:
Apple is preparing to move into another floor at Two Union Square, a 56-story office tower in downtown Seattle, giving it all or part of five floors of the building, GeekWire has learned through permitting documents and visits to the building. The latest move brings Apple to more than 70,000 square feet, which equates to room for somewhere between 350 and 475 people, based on standard corporate leasing ratios for tech companies.
The iPhone maker announced big plans to expand its presence on Puget Sound last year, as Levy’s colleague Todd Bishop reported at the time, after buying up the Seattle-based machine learning startup Turi and establishing a $1 million endowed professorship in artificial intelligence and machine learning at the University of Washington. Competing for AI talent is decidedly the name of the game here, Levy explains, as the northwestern city is emerging as a hub for this new technology. Amazon and Microsoft are based in or near Seattle, while Facebook and Google both have significant footprints there.
All these tech giants are racing toward potentially transformative innovations in AI and machine learning; to this end, they have been grabbing all the experts they can get their hands on for the past few years, often by acqui-hiring startup founders and talent.
Several large enterprises in the UK have been taking heat from investors over the sizes of the bonuses they are paying out to their top-level executives. At Unilever, Sky News reported on Saturday, investors are expected to raise objections at its annual shareholder meeting next month over the millions of pounds in bonuses it paid out this year to its CEO and CFO:
Sky News has learnt that the advisory service run by the Investment Association (IA), the fund managers’ body, has issued a “red-top” warning in relation to Unilever’s remuneration report. … City sources said on Friday that the IA “red-top” related to the decision by Unilever’s remuneration committee to award annual bonuses worth €2.3m to Paul Polman, its chief executive, and €1.1m to Graeme Pitkethly, the chief financial officer.
The bonuses were the maximum possible under the company’s existing remuneration policy, which is being overhauled this year. The IVIS service is understood to have been angered by that decision because Unilever’s underlying sales growth for last year fell short of the target figure by a small margin.
Unilever is not the only company where investors are balking at big payouts to executives. The Financial Times’ Attracta Mooney casts this as a broader trend, pointing also to the investment company Melrose, which specializes in acquisitions and turnarounds of underperforming companies, which has been subject to criticism this week after announcing that four of its executives would earn total pay packages of over £42 million for 2017. The construction company Persimmon is also taking heat for its plans to pay CEO Jeff Fairburn a bonus of £110 million as part of a bonus scheme described as among the country’s most generous (or, by critics, as “obscene”).
The Swiss staffing company Adecco has made a deal to acquire the New York-based coding bootcamp and education technology startup General Assembly for $413 million, Axios’s Dan Primack reported on Monday. The acquisition reflects the evolution of GA’s business, which is increasingly focused on enterprise customers rather than individuals:
A majority of GA’s revenue by year-end is expected to be business-to-business, whereas it was only 15% two years ago. Most of that is in terms of re-skilling workers, including a “talent pipeline as-a-service” business whereby GA acts not only as a recruiter, but also as a trainer (with hiring companies paying the freight).
GA will continue to operate as an independent division under the umbrella of Adecco Group, co-founder and CEO Jake Schwartz said in a statement. Schwartz will remain at the helm of the company, reporting to Sergio Picarelli on Adecco’s executive committee, Jonathan Shieber adds at TechCrunch.
Joining the European conglomerate is “not an ignominious outcome for General Assembly,” Shieber comments, “but not the exit that many in the New York tech ecosystem had hoped for”:
Last week, The New York City Council passed a suite of 11 separate bills intended to address the scourge of workplace sexual harassment by providing additional protections for victims and imposing new obligations on organizations to prevent harassment, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The measures include a mandate requiring employers with 15 or more workers to conduct sexual harassment prevention training for all employees at least once a year. Employers in the city will also be required to display an anti-sexual-harassment poster designed by the local government, while prospective contractors will have to detail their anti-harassment policies in their bids for city contracts. City agencies will be obligated to report harassment incidents to the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, in order to collect more information on the prevalence of sexual harassment, which the city does not currently know enough about.
Another bill expands sexual harassment protections under the New York City Human Rights Law to employees of organizations with four or fewer employees, meaning all employees will be covered by them. Yet another bill increases the statute of limitations for filing harassment claims from one year to three. (Jackson Lewis attorneys offer a more complete description of the bills at the law firm’s website.)