top of page

Mini-cast WW004: Hypertherm & the Recovery Friendly Workplace

Welcome to The ESOP Podcast's Winter Wonderland, where we take the opportunity to revisit some of our favorite episodes.

In this episode, Bret Keisling was joined by Jenny Levy, Executive Vice President, People, Community & Environment at Hypertherm, Inc., which is a recovery friendly workplace. Jenny describes what it means, how it works, and why it's an important aspect of Hypertherm's people-driven mission. Bret shares briefly about his personal perspective with 31+ years in recovery.

The Recovery Friendly Workplace Initiative gives business owners the resources and support they need to foster a supportive environment that encourages the success of their employees in recovery.

Previously, on Episode 55 of the ESOP Mini-cast, we sat down with Matt McKenney, Workforce Development Leader at Hypertherm, to talk about the Early Learnings from the 'Recovery Friendly Workplace' Initiative presentation he and Cameron Ford of Headrest, and Shannon Bresaw of Granite United Way and the Recovery Friendly Workplace Initiative shared in 2019 at The ESOP Association New England Chapter Fall Conference in Springfield, Massachusetts.

The body of this episode originally aired on April, 1 2022, as Mini-cast 179: Hypertherm & the Recovery Friendly Workplace.


Mini-cast WW 004 Transcript

[00:00:00] Bret Keisling: Welcome to The ESOP Podcast's Winter Wonderland, where we take the opportunity to revisit some of our favorite episodes. I hope you enjoy.


[00:00:07] Bret Keisling: Welcome to the ESOP Mini-cast. Thank you so much for listening. My name is Bret Keisling, and as it says on my business cards, I'm a passionate advocate for employee ownership. On our primary EO/ESOP Podcast that drops on Tuesdays we're in the middle of a two-part conversation with Jenny Levy, who is the Executive Vice President of People, Community and Environment at Hypertherm. I really, really hope you'll check out both episodes.

[00:00:41] Hypertherm is recognized as one of the leaders in employee ownership on how to run your company with mission, with values, and with the clear understanding that each and every success is built upon the people who make up the great employee owners at Hypertherm.

[00:00:57] Among the many important things Hypertherm does, they are a recovery friendly workplace. I'm going to bring you an excerpt from part two of my conversation with Jenny, which is so important, not just in my role as an EO podcast, host but, as you'll hear in a moment, because I myself have been in recovery since 1990.

[00:01:15] In October 2019 on Episode 55 of the ESOP Mini-cast, we presented "EO and the Recovery Friendly Workplace Initiative." I hope you'll check out that Mini-cast because the topic is very important to me.

[00:01:26] With that, here's Jenny Levy talking about Hypertherm's recovery friendly workplace.

[00:01:32] I think the New England chapter of The ESOP Association had a session on the recovery friendly workplace. And I did a podcast on their - I have been in recovery from alcohol and drug abuse since Memorial Day 1990.

[00:01:48] Jenny Levy: Congratulations!

[00:01:49] Bret Keisling: Thank you. It beat dying! You know, I've got one of those, very humbly those of us who are in recovery a long time uniformly don't understand why it took with us and not necessarily other people. You know, so there's a little bit of " there but for the grace of God go I."

[00:02:05] But tell me about Hypertherm's embrace of the recovery friendly workplace. What is it, if you don't mind, and why is that important to Hypertherm and to you, if it is?

[00:02:15] Jenny Levy: Oh, it's deeply important to us and to me. So, we are deeply committed to being a recovery friendly workplace. This all started, probably, let me think here, about 10 years ago. A few factors happened.

[00:02:29] One, we had an associate pass away from overdose. It was devastating to us. That happened in the context in Northern New England here of an increasing opioid abuse crisis in which more and more citizens were misusing opioids and dying from overdose. There was a true epidemic and in some ways that's still continuing.

[00:02:52] We are very connected with our community, it's a core value we've just been talking about, and it hit us close to home. Not just that. We had brothers of associates pass away. We had parents of associates pass away. We had children of associates pass away. We had people missing their family and friends because they had been lost to opioid use, and they were not able to connect with them. So, we started to feel and see, and experience this firsthand and through our associates.

[00:03:25] When you're an associate-owned business, you must and should stay connected to what's on everybody's minds and we seek to do that. So, we knew this was increasingly important.

[00:03:35] We also have a deep commitment to meet our associates where they're at, and to respect where they're at, and to bring them along in their career, in their training, in their journey.

[00:03:45] And so, these all started to kind of combine and started to realize we have a lot of work to do. And the work we started to do was, one, to educate ourselves on what is substance use disorder. It's a disease. It changes your brain chemistry. When someone suffers from a disease, you don't tell a diabetic it's weak of them to need insulin. You find them the medicine, you educate them on diet, et cetera.

[00:04:12] So, with substance use disorder, we started to really think about that. We looked at our processes and procedures and realized they were punitive and punishing to people with a disease, as opposed to meeting someone where they're at in their path to recovery, offering someone employment as part of their recovery, educating a leader around clarity, connection, and support for somebody in recovery.

[00:04:38] We rewrote our policies. When someone tested positive for a substance and instead of approaching them and saying, have you, or have you not been using? Many people's initial response is to say no.

[00:04:51] Bret Keisling: And now they're lying...

[00:04:53] Jenny Levy: Now they're lying, and we would terminate them for lying because honesty and integrity is a core value.

[00:04:57] Instead, we said this is positive. Your test is positive. Let's connect with a LADC, a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor. Let's talk about where you're at, what's going on, and giving it a chance, giving them a chance, their disease a chance to really be understood and to get treatment.

[00:05:15] Then when they signed a substance use disorder agreement, it is around an agreement through and with their LADC, not here at Hypertherm, but their own LADC, to say, okay, this is what your recovery path needs to look like. What are those milestones that we're all looking for? If and when there was, or is, a relapse, we reconnect with the LADC. Let's contextualize this relapse to understand where, and what this really needs, because is this a deeper issue where we're putting themselves and others at risk? Or is this a relapse? For example, we had an associate relapse. There was a dealer going to AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] and NA [Narcotics Anonymous] meetings and targeting people new to recovery with using. The conversation we had with the associate and their LADC was to change the location of their NA meeting that they were going to, where it wasn't as renowned for people getting targeted new to recovery.

[00:06:07] They changed the location. They have sustained their recovery ever since, Bret! But that's context-based leadership. That's meeting people where they're at.

[00:06:15] So, changing our policies, changing our approach. We trained every single leader in the organization on substance use disorder from our CEO management team through every single leadership layer. And that was to increase education. It was also to reduce stigma. We had many courageous associates come forward and wanting to share their journey and path of their own recovery, like you just did with this community, to help break stigma.

[00:06:39] And so, then to provide hope and connection through employment, it is proven that people who are employed have a stronger chance to sustain recovery. And so, let's give that pride. Let's give that stability of employment to someone who is working their butt off to sustain recovery.

[00:06:59] So, that is a very complicated, tumultuous path. But where we are now is a close connection with some local organizations who support people, seeking recovery and sustaining recovery. For example, Headrest here in Lebanon, New Hampshire. We are a partner to their opportunity to work program. So, people who have started recovery and are seeking employment with varied different backgrounds on their background checks and employment history, because that's what misuse does. We, and so we're partnering there.

[00:07:32] We fund this work through the Hope Foundation out in the community with specific targeting of people, sustaining recovery and education to prevent misuse. We now have a recovery network of people who choose to support each other who are in recovery. And we are asking them to help us inform our practices at Hypertherm.

[00:07:53] Our practices include, now, we have, you know, overdose reversal medicine by every AED device. So, an AED is for heart attacks. We have NaloxBox for our, for potential overdose. We treat them the same, a heart attack and an overdose. So, those two lifesaving measures are side by side here in our workplace.

[00:08:14] And we have more work to do. We still know that people are falling into substance misuse. We still know people are overdosing. We still know people are passing away. Luckily our own associates have not passed away since the one that we described. But it's around, yeah... humility.

[00:08:30] Bret Keisling: It's so important, what you're doing. I'm glad that attitudes have changed. It is a little bit unfortunate, and like all aspects of our society, it's complicated. When it was time for me to go to rehab at the age of 22, and then my story is not unique, I then spent five years partying after rehab until I finally sobered up. I love that the views are changing and more of an acceptance. But it's also from Hypertherm's perspective, and I don't know if I'm saying it right, why cast off a segment of society that would be valuable owners, associate owners, if they got into a good recovery. And I imagine, you know, you had mentioned the contract or agreement that they have to sign. This is not come party at work every day. There are, you know, I've got familiarity with it. There are rules, there are expectations. They must be followed. But it does give you access to a segment of the population if it's a recovery friendly workplace.

[00:09:31] So, that's also, you know, ties in, you're doing good stuff, but there are good reasons to do the good things.

[00:09:36] Am I saying that right?

[00:09:37] Jenny Levy: You are saying that right. I think, too, it's not just people in recovery, but people who want to be part of a company that understands that recovery is needed and real because of their experience through friends and family. And I think that, you know, there's interesting data out there that also talk about people in recovery are ever more loyal and ever more dedicated to employment and to their employer. You are getting a resilient associate. You're getting a strong associate. You're getting someone who hopefully knows how to advocate for themselves. Who can speak up about what they need and what they see others needing? You're talking and working now with someone who has seen the bottom and build themselves up. My gosh, who wouldn't want that by your side to handle, now, a tricky business problem!

[00:10:30] Bret Keisling: With that we'll wrap up today's Mini-cast. Please check out Part Two with Jenny Levy. It will include the full conversation about the recovery friendly workplace and then Jenny will share about Hypertherm's Hope Foundation that ties all of the values of employee ownership that are so critical to Hypertherm's DNA and applies them through a philanthropic foundation.

[00:10:50] If you subscribe to this podcast, you get the episodes automatically in your feed, which we appreciate. Or you can always check us out at where you'll find our over 375 episodes in our archives, including the episode I mentioned at the very beginning Mini-cast 55 titled "EO and the Recovery Friendly Workplace Initiative." I hope you'll check it out.

[00:11:14] Thank you so much for listening. This is Bret Keisling. Be well


[00:11:17] Bitsy McCann: We'd love to hear from you. You can find us on Facebook at EO Podcast Network and on Twitter @ESOPPodcast. This podcast has been produced by Bret Keisling for the EO Podcast Network, production assistance by Victoria Huerta, original music composed by Max Keisling, branding and marketing by BitsyPlus Design, and I'm Bitsy McCann.

Standard Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are my own and don't represent those of my own firms or the organizations to which I belong. Nothing in the podcast should be construed as guidance or advice of any kind in any field and the fact that I mentioned an organizational website or an advocate or a company on a podcast does not reflect an endorsement, but if you've heard your name or your group's name mentioned on this podcast, I'd love to have you come on and talk about it yourself.

A note on the transcript: This transcript was produced by Descript, an automated transcription service. While it has been reviewed by The EsOp Podcast, we can not guarantee the accuracy of the transcription. Please refer to the original audio when citing sources.


bottom of page