Amtrak recognized for diversity; Amazon ranked best workplace for career development

This week two big American companies are recognized for their HR initiatives

Article main image
Apr 28, 2023
This article is part of a series called The Most Interesting HR Stories of the Week.

Amtrak recognized for diversity initiatives…

Transport provider, Amtrak, has been recognized as being a Forbes Best Employer For Diversity. Winners were selected from a survey of 45,000 US employees based on age, gender, ethnicity, disability, LGBTQIA+ and general diversity. Extensive research evaluated how it fared including on metrics including providing employee resource groups (ERGs), what it diversity data showed, and the share of women in board and executive positions. “Amtrak is building a new era of passenger rail that will change how America moves,” Qiana Spain, Amtrak executive vice president and chief human resource officer, said. “This includes a comprehensive diversity and inclusion strategy that supports recruiting, developing and retaining our people.” The accolade comes on the back of two more recent external recognitions for diversity, inclusion and belonging – including it receiving top placing on the 2022 Disability Equality Index and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2022 Corporate Equality Index.

… as Amazon is ranked most desirable workplace in the US

It’s more often than not in the news about strikes and working conditions at its various warehouses, but in a break from the norm, it has been revealed that Amazon has been named by LinkedIn as the most sought-after employer for people to grow their career in the US. Its first-place ranking has now been scored for a third year in a row, and was compiled after LinkedIn aggregated data from its 900 million members. Initiatives that saw Amazon scoop its accolade include it pledging to invest $1.2 billion in providing its employees with access to more skills and education by 2025. Last year Amazon also announced its AWS Intelligence Initiative, which provides employees with skills training for technical roles in AWS’s dedicated cloud regions. Last year, it’s Career Choice program also saw 60,000 new participants explore a range of opportunities, including either starting or returning to school, learning new skills or earning industry certifications. For the past six consecutive years, LinkedIn has ranked Amazon among the top three companies in the US to work for.

US labor market is officially cooling, say experts

A rise in number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits has caused some to argue a recession could soon be on its way. According to data released by the Labor Department, claims for state unemployment benefits rose 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 245,000 for the week ending April 15. “After months and months of watching, for the first time we can say we see a recession coming and it will be a miracle if we don’t have a downturn in the economy,” said Christopher Rupkey, chief economist at FWDBONDS in New York. Economists also noted that the seasonal adjustment factors were less favorable last week. Separately, The Conference Board reported that its Leading Economic Index (LEI) dropped 1.2% in March, to the lowest level since November of 2020. “Weakness is starting to spread, and the LEI suggests a slowdown is ahead,” said Tim Quinlan, a senior economist at Wells Fargo in Charlotte, North Carolina. However, others argue that the jobs market still remains robust. Data also showed laid-off workers are quickly finding employment, with there being 1.7 job openings for every unemployed person in February.

New ‘layoff wave’ expanding beyond technology companies

Business Insider is this week reporting that layoffs are now expanding outside of the technology sector, with a raft of new companies announcing job cuts. These include 3M, Gap, and Lyft. The latter is eliminating around 1,200 roles, while Gap is releasing hundreds of staff and 3M is shedding the most – with 6,000 roles earmarked to go. Lyft’s layoffs represent around 30% of its total headcount. The layoffs have primarily affected the tech sector (which is now hemorrhaging employees at a faster rate than at any point during the pandemic), so the spread into other sectors could be a worrying sign that losses are now coming from further afield. 3M’s chief executive, Mike Roman, said the cuts would eliminate around 10% of 3M’s global workforce, as the company looks to save between $700 to $900 million in pre-tax costs. At Gap, the latest round of cuts is expected to be larger than the 500 jobs Gap slashed last September.

Lack of menopause support is costing US economy $billions

The US economy is losing approximately $26.6 billion a year due to lost productivity and healthcare costs from a lack of support to women managing menopausal symptoms. This is according to new research by The Mayo Clinic, which found 11% of the 4,400 women it polled aged between 45-50 said they had been absent from work in the past 12 months due to symptoms such as hot flashes and trouble sleeping. The annual cost of these missed workdays alone is $1.8 billion, not accounting for reduced work hours, job loss or early retirement. At least 13% of women surveyed said they experienced at least one of the above outcomes due to symptoms. Meanwhile, the direct medical costs associated with menopause was calculated to be an additional $24.8 billion per year. The Mayo Clinic report says the results of its survey “highlight a critical need to improve the medical treatment provided to women with menopausal symptoms.” It added that there was “an opportunity to make the work environment more supportive of women going through this stage of universal life.” Women between the ages of 45 and 54 make up 20% of the female workforce in the United States.

DuPont fined $16 million for deadly chemicals leak

Chemicals company, DuPont has been ordered to pay $16 million in fines after a leak of the highly toxic, flammable gas, methyl mercaptan, killed four workers in 2014. The incident – at its LaPorte insecticide plant in November of that year – not only killed employees, but it injured others, and the 24,000 pounds of gas also travelled further downwind into surrounding areas. The company pleaded guilty, along with Kenneth Sandel, who was the unit operations leader of the Insecticide Business Unit at the LaPorte plant. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal ordered DuPont to pay a $12 million penalty and serve a two-year probation period where it must give the U.S. Probation Office full access to its operating locations. Sandel will serve one year of probation. The company will also make a $4 million community service payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. “Four employees are dead because of DuPont’s criminal negligence,” said US Attorney, Alamdar Hamdani. “The sentence imposed today sends a clear message of my office’s dedication to holding managers at industrial facilities, and the corporations that own and operate those facilities, accountable for violations of federal criminal laws; laws meant to protect the safety of workers and nearby communities.”

Starbucks to hold ‘connection’ meetings with staff to rebuild trust

Coffee chain, Starbucks is reportedly rolling out so-called ‘connection’ sessions with staff, as it aims to restore engagement after months of disputes about unionism and working conditions. The two-hour meetings will apparently include coffee tastings, group activities, and games. They will kick off with a video message from Laxman Narasimhan, the company’s new CEO. Although the meetings are not scheduled to address operational matters, it seems inevitable that some issues will be raised. “Starbucks has a long history of bringing together partners to explore opportunities to evolve and modernize the business, brand, and culture to meet the needs of the day and, importantly, the future of the company,” a Starbucks representative said. But, Starbucks Workers United, the union representing some employees, is not impressed. “If Starbucks really wanted to connect with its partners, it could meaningfully participate in bargaining with workers at the more than 300 stores who have joined together and voted to form a union,” said a spokesperson. The moves come amid heightened tensions between some baristas and executives. More than 300 stores have voted to unionize, and the company has been accused of targeting union organizers.



This article is part of a series called The Most Interesting HR Stories of the Week.
Get articles like this
in your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting articles about talent acquisition emailed weekly!