The U.S. economy has lost millions of workers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. According to the U.S. Chamber’s America Works Data Center, there are upwards of 3.25 million missing workers in the economy today. As U.S. Chamber Chief Economist Curtis Dubay explains, this worker shortage is a crisis for both businesses and consumers as unfilled labor needs are driving inflation.
Given that, it’s all the more concerning that federal regulators at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) are making it more difficult for businesses to hire employees.
Targeting employee skill development
On June 9, 2022, the CFPB published a request for information (RFI) regarding what the agency refers to as “employer driven debt.”
While it sounds innocuous, the RFI is targeted at common business practices that expand hiring opportunities and provide employees with in-demand skills. Frequently, when companies hire new employees, they provide them with the opportunity to undertake training or certification courses. In return, employees will often agree to stay with the company for a limited amount of time or otherwise assume the burden for their repayment.
For example, a warehousing company short on truckers may offer employees commercial drivers licensing certification courses in exchange for a contractual obligation from the employee to remain with the company for one year. It’s advantageous for both parties. The employee receives training that typically costs between $3,000 and $10,000 dollars to obtain an in-demand transferable skill, while the employer benefits from investing in their employee and advancing the company. If the employee leaves before a predetermined period of time, however, he or she may be responsible for paying the employer for at least part of the training.
By targeting these business practices, the CFPB could make it more difficult for companies to attract, train, and retain employees. Companies should not have to jump through new regulatory hoops to have reasonable safeguards that protect the investments they are making in human capital, including the risks they are taking when hiring new employees and providing training.
In addition, if the CFPB regulates these types of employer-employee relationships, companies that were previously not within the purview of this federal agency could be subject to a host of new consumer financial protection laws such as the Truth in Lending Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
We encourage employers to learn more about the unintended consequences for their company if the CFPB attempts to expand its interpretation of consumer financial protection laws. If employers decide these actions will have a negative impact on their business, they can file comments with the CFPB online until September 7, 2022.
Story by Bill Hulse and Glenn Spencer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Bill Hulse is vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness.
Glenn Spencer is senior vice president of the Employment Policy division at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.