WETHERSFIELD — In comparing two measures of employment activity, officials at the state’s Department of Labor admit they are confounded by contradictory data. One assessment, the department’s business establishment survey, indicates a relatively robust 5,100-job increase in July. The other measure, the household survey, suggests declining employment levels, higher unemployment levels and the unemployment rate up to 8.5 percent (putting it above the 8.3 percent national average).
“The complete disagreement between our two key indicators of labor market health in Connecticut makes an assessment of market conditions difficult at best this month,” acknowledged Andy Condon, director of the DOL’s Office of Research, in a release. He said more data is needed to put the statistics in proper context. Among the job-gaining supersectors were government (2,600 positions), education and health services (2,400), leisure and hospitality (1,400) and arts, entertainment and recreation (1,200). The job-losing supersectors included trade, transportation and utilities (minus 1,600 positions), construction and mining (minus 1,500) and financial activities (minus 700).
If some of Connecticut’s major employers are reluctant to weigh in on the impact the state’s new medical marijuana law might have on companies (BNH, June 2012), one staunch proponent of a drug-free workplace is not quite so sanguine.
“It’s terrible from an employer’s standpoint,” asserts Calvina Fay, executive director of Drug Free America Foundation. “Employers have an obligation to provide a safe and healthy environment for their employees. This clouds the issue.”
Fay wrote an opinion piece on the subject that was published in the July 2 Hartford Courant. BNH subsequently spoke with Fay, who discussed the law via phone from her St. Petersburg, Fla., office.
Among business-endangering issues Fay raises regarding the new law are employee impairment, lowered productivity, higher probability of accidents, increased insurance premiums and other costs, and loss of grants and federal contracts that stipulate drug-free environments among award criteria.
“The small [business] employer can least afford it,” says Fay, who also heads the organization Save Our Society From Drugs.. “All it takes is one accident to literally wipe out a small employer. They can’t afford it.”
Fay offers anecdotal situations relayed to her and statistics to support her stance. She also notes that she speaks as an employer herself.
It becomes a “productivity issue,” she says, when “it hampers my ability to get things done here. To just call in sick a lot hurts a small business, or to have someone sleeping at their desk. Employers cannot afford that, especially small employers.”
And, she adds, “If the small employer is providing insurance, it definitely runs the insurance [premium] up.”
The Connecticut law states that nothing in it, or in existing general statues, should be interpreted as requiring health insurance for medical marijuana use. Smoking marijuana for medicinal purposes is not approved by the federal Food & Drug Administration. Incidents that might be related to medical marijuana use, such as an increased incidence of workplace accidents, are likely to affect insurance premiums, Fay says.
With the exception of prohibition by federal law or guidelines, Connecticut’s new law prevents an employer from firing or failing to hire a worker because of medical marijuana use. That is particularly burdensome for employers, says Fay, a former principal of Forward Edge, a pioneering drug-testing company, who was cited by President George W. Bush for her drug-prevention efforts.
“Why should I as an employer have my hands tied?” when making staffing decisions, she asks. “Under the Connecticut bill, legally, that bars an employer from making work decisions.”
In addition, Fay says, the law makes employers vulnerable to lawsuits by employees who might be adversely affected by a coworker under the influence of medical marijuana.
“It’s a terrible bill for employers,” she says. “It completely ties the hands of employers.”
NEW HAVEN — The Elm City is one of four Connecticut municipalities awarded federal grants to recruit and train new police officers from among the country’s military veterans. New Haven received a $750,000 “Vets to Cops” hiring grant to support six police officer positions while Hartford was allotted approximately $1.7 million for 12 positions, Waterbury received approximately $1.7 million for 14 positions and the Norwich Police Department garnered $500,000 for four new officer jobs. The grants are part of the Obama administration’s effort to help veterans return to civilian life after retiring from active duty, said Vice President Joseph Biden in a conference call between administration officials and media outlets including BNH. The funding will cover salaries and benefits for community police positions for three years; all new positions (some 600 in all) must be filled by military veterans who have served a minimum of 180 days since September 11, 2011. The awards — which totaled more than $111 million for 800 new, budget-threatened or recently cut positions in more than 220 cities and counties — are funded through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) division.
BRIDGEPORT — Securing Bass Pro Shops as anchor store for the Steelpointe Harbor development comes with the promise of at least 250 new jobs, according to the office of Mayor Bill Finch. The announcement that Bridgeport had lured the sporting goods retailer as a commercial tenant was made July 8 at the 50-acre development site on Long Island Sound. Among the invited guests was Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who said: “This is about jobs, and it’s great news for the city of Bridgeport. Bass Pro will be a draw for people from throughout the region, one that will help revive the local economy.” The 150,000-square-foot store will house hunting, fishing, boating, camping and other outdoor and sporting goods.
NEW HAVEN — Alexion Pharmaceuticals’ decision to move its global headquarters to New Haven will relocate an existing workforce of more than 350 employees to the Elm City, and also add up to 300 new jobs in Connecticut, according to the governor’s office. Having outgrown its current Cheshire space, the company plans to build a new facility in New Haven’s Downtown Crossing development at 100 College Street. Winstanley Enterprises is helming the $100 million construction project, which will include office, research retail and parking space. Alexion’s move was precipitated by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s “First Five” program, which offers incentive packages of grants, low-interest loans and tax credits to companies agreeing to create significant numbers of jobs.
WEST HAVEN — Cultivating a successful team of engaged, contributing employees has earned Filomeno & Co. plaudits from members of the business community. The firm was among seven privately held companies honored at the recent Business Champions Awards Breakfast. Filomeno, a business accounting advisory firm, practices Open Book Management in conjunction with employee profit sharing and a bonus plan. It was honored in the Workforce category in recognition of Filomeno’s efforts to engage employees and solicit and utilize their ideas and input. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was on hand to congratulate the company and other award recipients. “We have an outstanding team at Filomeno & Company,” said Tom Filomeno, the company’s managing partner. “We strive to create a great culture and passionately serve our clients so receiving this award is especially meaningful to us.” Filomeno offers services ranging from auditing to business valuations to corporate, individual and strategic tax advising to fraud prevention. It has offices in West Haven and West Hartford. The Business Champions Awards Breakfast was presented in June by the MetroHartford Alliance and the Hartford Business Journal.
Connecticut companies are reminded that the Job Expansion Tax Credit provides $500 in tax credits to qualifying companies every month, for up to three years, for every new full-time job hired between January 1, 2012 and January 1, 2014. That credit could be increased to $900 under special circumstances, including the new employee’s status as either a veteran, a recipient of unemployment benefits, or a recipient of vocational rehabilitative services from the Bureau of Rehabilitative Services. To find out how your business can qualify, visit ct.gov/ecd/cwp/view.asp?a=1097&q=437460 and scroll down to the “Job Expansion Tax Credit” section.
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