Belden Inc., a manufacturer of electronic networking equipment based in St. Louis, Missouri, faces the same labor market issue as most other industrial employers in the Midwest, including the challenge of hiring and retaining workers for safety-sensitive roles in places where opioid addiction has reached epidemic proportions. Belden’s CEO John Stroup is taking an innovative approach to tackling the opioid problem at his company’s factory in Richmond, Indiana, where this past winter, one in ten applicants failed their drug tests, as did several people already employed there. At CNN Money last week, Lydia DePillis profiled Stroup’s efforts to give these workers a second chance:
For Stroup, the decision was a simple cost-benefit analysis: How much would it cost to help people get sober in this Rust Belt town of 37,000, compared to what he was losing by not having them available to work? After a few meetings with board members and addiction experts, he came up with a plan. If an applicant or a current employee failed a drug test, but they still wanted the job, Belden would pay for an evaluation at a local substance abuse treatment center.
People deemed to have a low risk of developing an addiction could spend two months in a non-dangerous job before they are allowed to operate heavy equipment again, as long as they passed periodic random drug tests for the rest of their time at the company. People at high risk would spend two months in an intensive outpatient monitoring and treatment program, with the promise of a job at the end if they made sufficient progress. On average, Belden figured it would have to shell out about $5,000 for each person it gave a second chance to.
The experiment started in March and has so far had eight participants. Two at-risk current employees made it through the monitoring period and are back to work, while others are still being evaluated. It will take a few more months to see if the program really works, but the few Belden employees who spoke to DePillis said they were heartened to see the company trying to help current and prospective employees with opioid issues recover rather than discarding them.
The Indian IT services and business process outsourcing giant Infosys unveiled plans last week to establish a $245 million, 141-acre campus near Indianapolis, expected to create up to 3,000 jobs in the midwestern state within five years, the Indianapolis Star reported last Thursday. The first phase of the campus, to be built at the site of a demolished Indianapolis International Airport terminal, will entail constructing a 125,000 square-foot training center, including residences, on which Infosys plans to spend $35 million:
The training center is at the heart of Infosys’ larger target of hiring 10,000 people across the U.S., company President Ravi Kumar said. Infosys is working with partner colleges and universities, including Purdue University, to educate students and feed its training center and future workforce. Infosys plans to break ground on the training center this year and complete it by 2020.
“The 10,000 jobs was always with an idea of building talent pool from schools and colleges,” Kumar said. “It always had to be that way. We would never find that kind of talent in the market.”
Infosys, India’s second-largest IT company with over $10 billion in revenue and over 200,000 employees, announced its plan to hire 10,000 US workers last year in the wake of President Donald Trump’s pledges to crack down on outsourcing and the use of the H-1B skilled worker visa, of which Infosys has historically been a major beneficiary. While this looked to some observers like a hedge against the uncertain future of the H-1B and the outsourcing sector, Trump’s policy agenda was not the only motivation for the move, which Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka said at the time had been in the works for two years.
Indiana State House (Aeypix/Shutterstock)
At the same time that the Trump administration is looking to roll back multiple elements of federal employment regulation in the US, we have also seen a recent trend of states and cities taking the lead on introducing new regulations such as minimum wage laws, overtime rules, paid sick leave mandates, and bans on salary history inquiries. Employers, however, fear that a patchwork of regulations will make compliance a nightmare, and some states see the proliferation of local labor ordinances as a form of overreach by municipal governments.
These states, mostly governed by Republicans, have begun advancing legislation to curb the implementation of these local ordinances; Indiana, for example, recently passed a law barring local governments from enacting ban-the-box laws, which prohibit employers from inquiring about candidates’ criminal records early on in the application process, Roy Maurer reports at SHRM:
The legislation is meant to make it easier for employers that operate statewide from having to navigate different hiring processes and obligations throughout the state, said Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, the author of the bill. It takes effect July 1. Over 150 state, county and city governments have enacted ban-the-box laws across the country, and new laws are being passed every year. Most are limited to public-sector hiring.
Indianapolis and Marion County passed its ban-the-box law in February 2014. The ordinance prohibits city or county agencies and vendors from inquiring into an applicant’s conviction history until after the first interview. If no interview is conducted, the employer is prohibited from making inquiries or gathering any information regarding the applicant’s criminal convictions. Other areas of the country are attempting to enact bills like S.B. 312.