Top Workplaces 2020: See the list of Orange County’s winners

It’s been a surreal year for workplaces as the coronavirus pandemic swept across Orange County.

Offices closed suddenly. Daycare for working parents evaporated. Technology shifted to the home office, sometimes the kitchen table. Virtual meetings became the norm as thousands of bosses managed their teams from afar. Timecards, WiFi, laptops, HR issues and COVID-19 infections.

Thousands of people lost their jobs as the county’s unemployment rate neared 15% in late spring.

Amid the Great Lockdown of 2020, the Orange County Register sought the businesses that rose above for its 13th annual Top Workplaces program. Local companies, awash in their own coronavirus chaos, did not disappoint.

The honorees this year range from data and real estate companies to school districts, hospitals, nonprofits, a water utility and a favorite comfort-food chain. All of them stressed one thing above all: their people.

“When you have amazing people, you can’t help but have an incredible culture,” said Joone Lopez, the general manager of Moulton Niguel Water District.

Lopez put her employees’ safety front and center. She quickly mobilized a color-coded system to keep any potential COVID infections from cross-contaminating staff members working on key infrastructure issues.

Others, like Optima Tax Relief, had to switch from a call-center format to a work-from-home setting. CEO David King and his IT team scrambled to configure 700 laptops — in three days during tax season — for his employees.

In what’s been arguably one of the craziest years in this century, many companies found ways to adapt and thrive.

“We’ve adjusted well,” said Jim Andronaco, co-founder of Sidepath in Laguna Hills. “More importantly, our people adjusted well.”

Through all the work-from-home complications, the tech glitches and the divisive politics, bosses said the pandemic pivot helped them get to know their employees better.

“We see the background at home,” said Trevor Tait, managing director at Tait & Associates in Santa Ana. “We get to meet a lot of dogs. We now know people differently.”

This year, 151 employers agreed to take the survey with Top Workplaces partner Energage. Combined, they employ 54,487 people in Orange County. Of the 28,177 employees who received questionnaires, 18,170 responded, either on paper or online. For this year’s winners list, 105 Orange County employers earned recognition as Top Workplaces based on employee feedback.

In a nod to lockdown restrictions and a first for the program, the annual awards gala held each December at the City National Grove of Anaheim was canceled.

Here’s the list of Orange County’s Top Workplaces for 2020.

Large company honorees

1 Experian North America2 New American Funding3 Optima Tax Relief4 Panda Restaurant Group5 MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center6 American Advisors Group7 West Coast University8 Beckman Coulter Inc.9 BEHRProcess Corp.10 MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center

Medium company honorees

1 Moulton Niguel Water District2 Seven Gables Real Estate3 TAIT & ASSOCIATES4 Ivantis Inc5 theLender6 Prime Choice Funding Inc.7 Blue-White Industries Ltd.8 BluePoint Mortgage9 Americor Funding Inc.10 Orion Lending11 SullivanCurtisMonroe Insurance Services LLC12 AmeriHome Mortgage13 SmartFinancial14 Smart Circle International LLC15 Performance Lighting System16 The Word & Brown Family of Companies17 Marque Medical18 Axonics19 Love 2 Learn Consulting LLC20 Seneca Family of Agencies21 American Career College22 Orange County Rescue Mission23 Nations Direct Mortgage LLC24 Veri-Tax LLC25 Seabreeze Management Company Inc.26 Herbalife Innovation and Manufacturing27 Insperity28 Össur Americas29 United Auto Credit Corporation30 Edward Jones31 Service Champions LLC32 Chipotle Mexican Grill Restaurant Support Center33 Parcel Pending34 HUB International Insurance Services inc.35 Sovereign Lending Group36 Pacific Mercantile Bank37 CBE Office Solutions38 Heritage Pointe39 Astronics Test Systems40 Medical Specialties Managers Inc.41 Western Resources Title Company42 Burns & McDonnell43 Sunwest Bank44 Advanced Management Company & R³ Construction Services Inc.45 Reborn Cabinets

Small company hnorees

1 Sidepath2 Vantis Capital Advisors3 Fenix Consulting Group4 Voit Real Estate Services5 Optimum Professional Property Management Inc.6 Pinner Construction Company7 Kind Lending8 Better.com9 US Alliance Group Inc.10 Helium 1011 PeopleG212 DEB Construction LLC13 Savills Inc.14 FM Restaurants15 ECOS16 Carothers DiSante & Freudenberger LLP17 BigRentz Inc.18 TechMD19 SurflineWavetrak Inc.20 LCPtracker Inc.21 QuestSoft22 Paramount Residential Mortgage Group Inc.23 Murow Development Consultants24 El Toro Water District25 Southern California Illumination26 CPS Insurance Services27 Essex Mortgage28 Vincit29 DreamHost30 H. Hendy Associates31 PlanNet Consulting LLC32 Advanced Office33 Robert Half34 Portfolio35 SACA Technologies36 Directive37 Advantest Test Solutions Inc.38 Orion Risk Management an Alera Company39 IPS – Integrated Project Services LLC40 System Pavers41 Brown & Streza LLP42 Technologent43 Swift Health Systems dba INBRACE44 Kimco Staffing Services/KTimeHR45 Modern Gourmet Foods46 Evolus Inc.47 Girl Scouts of Orange County48 Wunderman Thompson49 American Income Life – Orange County50 Consolidated Contracting

MORE ONLINE: To read more about the 105 organizations named in the Top Workplaces survey, check our online database at

To participate in the 2021 program, go to

Staff writers Jeff Collins, Jonathan Lansner and Alicia Robinson contributed to this report.

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Nominate a company, organization for Top Workplaces 2020

The Orange County Register has launched its 13th annual Top Workplaces program for 2020.

Last year, 1,780 companies and organizations participated and 191 were invited to join the survey to determine Top Workplaces. In the end, 140 were chosen as the best of the best in Orange County.

Last year’s top winners were Seven Gables Real Estate, Marque Medical and Sidepath. You can check out all of the 2019 honorees here.

So, what kind of company, nonprofit or organization is eligible to participate?

  • Any organization with 35 or more employees in Orange County is eligible to participate (can be public, private, non-profit, government)
  • Workplaces are evaluated by their employees using a short 24-question survey.
  • Companies will be surveyed from June through August.

Energage, the research partner for the project, conducts Top Workplaces surveys for 50 major metro newspapers and surveyed more than 2 million employees at more than 7,000 organizations in 2019.

Dates, numbers to remember:

  • The nomination deadline is July 17
  • A magazine will be printed in December
  • To nominate online, go to
  • To nominate by phone, call  714-442-2768

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AB 5 could have an unintended impact on the franchise industry

In enacting Assembly Bill 5 earlier this year, the California Legislature’s intent was to protect workers who were the functional equivalent of employees but did not receive the same benefits and protections as other employees.

While the law’s goal was just, AB 5 as presently written may distort traditional contractual relationships between numerous entities.

For the franchise industry, AB 5 poses a risk because it discounts both the state and federal laws upon which the franchise model operates. The new law means franchisees and their employees may be considered employees of the franchisor corporation — posing a substantial threat to California’s franchise model.

What was AB 5’s intent?

The Legislature passed AB 5 to codify a 2018 decision by the California Supreme Court, Dynamex Operations West Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles.

The court found that the test to determine whether an individual is an “independent contractor” or an “employee” should change because certain employers were taking advantage of precedent and failing to provide employee benefits and workplace protections.

With this rationale in mind, the court found that a worker should only be classified as an independent contractor if the worker satisfies all three elements under its new “ABC” test:

A. He or she is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact.

B. He or she performs work that is outside the course of the hiring entity’s business.

C. He or she is customarily engaged in independently established trade, occupation or business of the same nature as the work performed.

Agreeing with the court’s rationale, the Legislature codified the ABC test with the aim of addressing businesses engaged in California’s burgeoning “gig economy,” such as Uber and Lyft. The ride-hailing companies provide workers with the flexibility to take on as many “gigs” as they desire. But these workers are generally classified as independent contractors and are not provided the workplace protections or benefits that an ordinary employee would be due.

How does AB-5 work in reality?

Although AB 5 limits the ability of gig employers to classify their employees as independent contractors, the sheer breadth of its ambiguous language has collateral damage.

As with any ambiguity in the law, AB 5’s uncertainty invites plaintiffs to warp the intent of the Legislature and claim that virtually all independent contractor relationships are impermissible unless one of AB 5’s few enumerated professions apply. While AB 5 does include a catch-all exemption for business-to-business relationships, even this exemption is ambiguous.

AB 5’s ambiguity may have the most detrimental impact on the franchise industry.

In California, there are more than 75,000 franchise establishments that employ more than 725,000 workers, have a payroll of more than $28 billion and — in keeping with the intent of both the court and the Legislature — offer the same worker protections and follow the same California employment laws as other small businesses in the state.

However, because AB 5 does not account for how state and federal franchise law requires the franchise model to operate, there is a risk that franchisees and their employees could be misconstrued as employees of the franchisor corporation.

What’s next for AB 5?

The franchise industry and others are asking the Legislature to clarify AB 5 to ensure it does not have the unintended consequences of fundamentally changing the way these businesses have lawfully operated for decades or forcing these businesses to defend against lawsuits that misconstrue the Legislature’s just intent.

While there is some hope that the Legislature will make the necessary clarifications, in the interim, businesses should discuss AB 5 and its broad ramifications with their attorneys to determine if any exemptions apply to them, if any of their businesses relationships put them at risk and if there are any actions that they can take to further delineate their contracting relationships to satisfy the ABC test.

Thomas O’Connell is an attorney with Best Best & Krieger LLP in Riverside, focusing on business and labor and employment litigation and franchise formation. He can be reached at

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Redemption Decade: How California’s population ‘exodus’ shrank

With the 2010s at their end, our “Redemption Decade” series explores how California’s economy rebounded from the destruction of the Great Recession. This is Part 4.

Despite all the economic turmoil, Californians remained surprising loyal. Yes, population growth has cooled but don’t blame some mass exodus to other states. The often-cited “net domestic outmigration” data — more moves out than relocations in — actually fell this decade. Here’s how my trusty spreadsheet sets the scene …

Then: In 2009, California’s population grew by 220,982, according to the state Department of Finance, despite net domestic outmigration of 249,652.

Now: In 2018, population grew by 214,625 as 159,421 more Californians departed to other states than came in.

The decade: Through 2018, the decade’s population growth has averaged 305,000 — down 16% from the 2000s. Moves to elsewhere in the U.S. averaged 81,000 vs. 111,000 in the previous decade and 145,000 in the 1990s.

The redemption

Let’s politely say a Californian who doesn’t like it here isn’t shy about departing. State data that dates to 1991 shows more exits than arrivals in 25 of the past 28 years — 1991, 1999 and 2000 are the outlier times when more moved here than left.

The state’s population continues to grow, albeit slowly, due to migration from foreign lands as well as more births than deaths.

But the relocation gap spurs noteworthy emotion. Some critics try to tie the trend to politics, suggesting folks moving elsewhere may be fed up with the state’s progressive agenda, which may have altered California life for the worse.

And while the legislature has been controlled by Democrats for virtually all of the past half-century, in 16 of the past 28 years the governor’s been a Republican. And guess what: Net outflows were nearly three times higher in those “red” years compared with years with a “blue” governor.

So with politics just a poor talking point, my trusty spreadsheet ranked the past 28 years by size of net outflow, then split them into halves — big and little — and weighed the population flows against other economic data. Certain surprising trends emerged.

When California has decidedly more outs than in, it’s a big outflow: an average 216,220 departures over arrivals in the 14 worst years vs. just 14,215 in the 14 best years.

The high cost of living also is a factor. Look at the California Association of Realtors’ homebuying “affordability” index, as one benchmark of how pricey California life is.

This index, gauging how many Californians might financially survive buying the median-priced home, showed 30% of households could comfortably purchase in the worst outflow years. It was 37% when outflows were lowest.

If departure swings are indeed about money, it’s also true for opportunity. For example, California bosses added an average 99,000 in the worst outflow years, less than half the 232,000 hires made when outflow was small.

Poor job prospects in California mean you’re thinking about leaving. But outflows are also about competition for workers. When the grass is greener elsewhere — green, as in paychecks — folks move.

In the years when California has been most likely to lose residents to other states since 1990, the Golden State created just 7% of all new U.S. jobs. When outflow was smallest, California had 16% of all American employment hiring.

So why did the gap between Californians leaving and out-of-staters arriving shrink this decade? Remember the 1990s economy was largely a dud. And the 2000s decade ended with the Great Recession’s harsh thud.

That adds up to bosses statewide adding jobs at a 308,000-a-year pace in the 2010s. It’s a hiring spree triple the average employment growth of the previous two decades.

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Yes, you likely have read that a seemingly big number of Californians go elsewhere. U.S. Census stats show 700,000 in departures to other states in 2018 vs. 510,000 Americans moved in … thus the eye-catching-yet-shrinking “not domestic outmigration.”

Note that 7 million Americans switched states last year. And California is the nation’s most populous state. If you focus on the California exits as a share of its nearly 40 million residents, the departures represent a tiny 1.8% per-capita “loss rate.”

That’s the third-lowest loss rate among the states and well below the rest of the nation’s 2.4% average. And it’s no one-year blip: California has long had a nationally leading “retention rate.”

Conversely, and a decidedly against-common-wisdom trend, is California’s lowly “attractiveness” as a place to which other Americans relocate. Last year’s arrivals were only 1.3% of all residents — DEAD LAST among the states.

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California’s job growth to dip from more robust years, report says

California’s economy is expected to add more than 300,000 jobs this year and in 2020, but that will fall well below some of the more robust growth years the state experienced over the last half-decade.

California will add 322,700 jobs this year and 318,500 next year, the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.’s 2019 Regional Forecast and Economic Outlook predicts. By contrast, the state added 424,200 jobs in 2014, 474,000 in 2015 and 427,100 the following year.

On the plus side, California’s average annual income will hit $52,447 in 2020, an annual increase of $7,572 from 2014.

More good news: The state’s unemployment rate is headed down. Last year it stood at 4.2 percent. This year it’s forecast to be 3.7 percent and that’s expected to dip to 3.4 percent in 2020, the report said.

“That will be one of the lowest rates it’s ever been,” said Somjita Mitra, director of the LAEDC’s Institute for Applied Economics.

The demand for housing, particularly in coastal regions of California, is predicted to spur more construction, with a year-over-year increase in permits of more than 8,000 in 2019 and 2020.

But that won’t be enough to meet the demand, according to Mitra.

“It’s still a drop in the bucket,” she said. “We still have a pretty critical housing shortage. We would need 500,000 more homes to meet our population and economic growth — and that would have to include homes that are affordable for people who live here.”

The report also includes economic breakouts for Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties …

Los Angeles County

The county will continue its shift from production operations like manufacturing and logistics to service-based industries, with major growth in professional business services, health care and hospitality.

Major investment in transit will continue to support strong economic growth, although failure to increase residential density along transit routes heavily limits the potential positive impacts.

“One of the big things we are dealing with is traffic congestion and mobility issues,” Mitra said. “It can take a long time to get from one part of L.A. to another. This is a highly desirable market, but there are lots of issues with rules and regulations and height restrictions on how high you can build.”

Orange County

Orange County will continue to see strong economic output, the report said, and higher-than-average education will continue to drive wage growth higher than the regional average, particularly in middle- and high-skilled industries such as business services and healthcare.

Home prices in Orange County are already some of the highest around, and that trend is expected to continue. December figures from price tracker CoreLogic show the median price for a single-family home in the 92606 ZIP code of Irvine, for example, was $930,000, up 4.2 percent from a year earlier. In the 92612 ZIP, it was more than $1.1 million, a 31.4 percent hike from December 2017.

Riverside County

Riverside County’s economic growth should continue, fueled heavily by its role as a key transportation and shipping hub for Southern California. The relative affordability of housing in the region is expected to drive population growth as families move from high-priced coastal regions.

CoreLogic figures show that home prices are considerably lower there than in Orange County. In December, the median price in Riverside ranged from $390,000 to $525,000, depending on the ZIP code.

Riverside County is predicted to lead the region in personal income growth.

San Bernardino County

The region’s importance as a key logistics hub will continue, according to the report, with strong employment and wage growth coming from transportation and trade. But mounting trade tensions with China will likely cause a drag on local growth, the report said.

“We haven’t seen it yet,” said Inland Empire economist John Husing. “One of the first places you’d notice that would be a slowdown in trade through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, but they both just had a record year.”

San Bernardino County added 22 million square feet of industrial net absorption in 2018, most of which is e-commerce related, Husing said. An equal amount of industrial construction is currently underway.

“We’re filling them as fast as they’re being built,” he said.

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California ranked 3rd-most psychopathic state

Think your co-worker’s a little nuts? Maybe it’s because California is No. 3 for psychopathy!

The ranking craze comes to psychology. A new study by Ryan Murphy of Southern Methodist University ranked the collective mental health of the contiguous 48 U.S. states and the District of Columbia by psychopathy.

Psychopaths are the pushy folks who are heavy on dishonesty, manipulation, and risk-taking while lacking guilt, empathy, and attachment. And this trait — much debated in psychology circles as either a personality disorder or mental illness — is most prevalent in the District of Columbia. The report noted: “psychopaths are likely to be effective in the political sphere.”

Next in psychopathic density came Connecticut, California, New Jersey, and a New York-Wyoming tie. Lowest psychopathy? West Virginia, then Vermont, Tennessee, North Carolina, and New Mexico.

California’s laid-back vibe may not jibe with these results, but remember a “charm” of the psychopathic mind is convincing others of a positive image.

Now, other pundits can debate the social meaning of this scientific discovery — how crime and/or urbanization factor in. I’ll stick to the dollars and cents. Namely, how California’s economy — notably its workforce — may be shaped by psychopathy.

Apparently, certain work is very prone to having more psychopaths — perhaps due to skills required or the comfort of being with like minds. Demand for that kind of worker can bring more psychopaths to a region.

Let’s look at the Top 10 psychopathic-leaning jobs: CEO, lawyer, media, salesperson, surgeon, journalist, police officer, clergyperson, chef, and civil servant. How many of you are nodding your head and thinking “sounds about right” to yourself? (Yes, I noted my own craft in the list!)

Conversely, the report also listed professions where you’re least likely to find psychopathic habit. Primarily, people-pleasing trades or assistance work: care aide, nurse, therapist, craftsperson, beautician/stylist, charity worker, teacher, creative artist, doctor, and accountant.

So, I wondered how California fared with these jobs and what that says about the state’s workplace psyche. I tossed into my trusty spreadsheet some employment data — with my best match possible for the professional niches — for these on-the-job psychopathic extremes.

Ponder how California’s employment patterns compare with national norms. In the 10 heavily psychopathic-leaning jobs, California had 9 percent more workers than the usual. Meanwhile, the combined level of low-psychopathy jobs was roughly on par with U.S. averages.

When it comes to pay, my spreadsheet strongly hints the California psychopath is well-rewarded.

California’s psychopathic-leaning jobs had an average annual wage of $127,000 vs. $52,000 for those working in niches where the disorder was typically limited.

Look at six-figures professions. Five of the 10 heavily psychopathic-leaning jobs paid $100,000 or more annually — surgeon ($229,340); CEO ($222,950); lawyer ($168,200); media, defined by me as producers and directors ($118,830); and police officer ($100,090).

Just two from the list of low-psychopathy work paid above that threshold: doctor, defined by me as family and general practitioners ($196,180); and nurse ($102,700).

Even the lowest-paid of these psychopathic extremes favored those most likely to have the trait: Civil servants, defined by me as municipal clerks, got $47,270 vs. personal care aides earning $26,220.

You’ve probably heard that the gap between genius and madness can be small. In California, paychecks can’t seem to tell the difference.

ICYMI: In California, it’s not blue vs. red! Its homeowner vs. renter! (Even when it comes to Trump!) 

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The #MeToo push could lead to limits on binding arbitration in California

Buoyed by the #MeToo movement, California lawmakers are mounting a new push to prevent businesses from forcing workers into closed-door arbitration over sexual harassment, wage theft, discrimination and other complaints.

A bill authored by Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego), AB 3080, would affect 67 percent of private California employers–those who require their nonunion workers to sign agreements waiving their rights to file a lawsuit or to complain to state or federal agencies in the event of a dispute.

“In forced arbitration, settlements often require the victim to refrain from discussing the case publicly,” Gonzalez Fletcher said.

“In a workplace with a culture of sexual harassment, these arbitration agreements are particularly toxic, enabling the abusive behavior to continue unchecked,” she added.

The bill would prohibit employers from making new hires sign the waivers as a condition of getting the job, continuing in the job, or receiving an employment-related benefit, such as a bonus. Employers also would be barred from retaliating against any employee who declines to sign such an agreement.

The debate over mandatory arbitration, and the non-disclosure agreements they often include, has exploded nationally in recent months. Victims of sexual harassment and discrimination from Hollywood to Silicon Valley to Wall Street complain they are being silenced by paperwork they were made to sign as a condition of employment.

Under arbitration clauses, workers are referred to the employer’s dispute resolution company, which offers a list of arbitrators from which to choose. The arbitrators, often attorneys or retired judges, make legally binding decisions in private, away from any media scrutiny.

In 2015, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar anti-arbitration bill after intense lobbying by the California Chamber of Commerce and some 40 trade groups representing homebuilders, restaurants, hotels, retailers and other industries.

Brown acknowledged at the time “there is significant debate about whether arbitration is less fair to employees.”  However, he wrote that courts have protected workers by requiring arbitrators to be neutral in workforce disputes.

He also cited court mandates for “adequate [legal] discovery, no limitation on damages or remedies, a written decision that permits some judicial review, and limitations on the costs of arbitration.”

At an Assembly Labor and Employment Committee hearing last week, the Chamber’s Jennifer Barrera said arbitration proceedings are “a more open forum” than courts because information on the cases are posted on arbitration company websites.

Bipartisan legislation pending in Congress to address arbitration in sexual harassment cases is “where the discussion is,” she added. “It is a federal issue.”

Binding arbitration is used not just in employment, but also in a broad range of transactions by businesses such as credit card companies and even by doctors’ offices. The practice accelerated after 2011 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided that AT&T customers had given up their right to sue in the fine print of their service contract.

Barrera said the Gonzalez Fletcher legislation would “probably be preempted” by federal arbitration law.

However, Steve Smith, a spokesman for the California Labor Federation, a chief sponsor of AB 3080, said, “We’re confident these provisions are well within the state’s purview without running afoul of federal law.

“The problem is growing exponentially. We need to put a lid on it or all the work California has done to protect workers is at risk.”

The bill passed the labor committee last week on a 5-2 party line vote: Democrats voted in favor and Republicans opposed it.

It is scheduled to be heard in the Judiciary Committee Tuesday and could reach the Assembly floor by the end of the month.

Gonzalez Fletcher has asked Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) to issue a subpoena to allow Tara Zoumer, who gained notoriety in 2016 for suing WeWork for overtime pay, to testify without legal consequences, despite having signed a non-disclosure agreement in an arbitration proceeding. The San Diego Democrat also has enlisted Susan Fowler, a former Uber engineer whose blog post about sexual harassment at the ride-sharing company became a cause célèbre, contributing to the downfall of chief executive Travis Kalanick.

Fowler was unable to sue Uber because she had signed the company’s arbitration agreement.

“On my first day, I was sexually harassed and retaliated against for reporting it,” Fowler said at a press conference last week. “As a condition of employment, Uber made us sign away our constitutional rights.

“Ending forced arbitration is the single most important thing the legislature can do to prevent harassment and discrimination in the workplace.”

At the committee hearing, Roberto Ramirez, who worked 18 years as a cook and cashier for a Los Angeles Carl’s Jr. outlet, wept as he described what he called “the humiliation” of a manager stealing a week’s wages from him and regularly denying him rest breaks and sick leave.

“My manager told me there was nothing I could do because of company policies,” he said. “I was told I had no rights.”

A spokeswoman for CKE Restaurants, Carl’s Jr.’s corporate parent, said the company “does its best to be a fair place to work” and does not require arbitration contracts. However it does not restrict the right of its franchises to do so, she added.

A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank, found that mandatory arbitration is most common in low-wage workplaces and in industries with a high number of women workers.

EPI found that last year 56 percent of private-sector nonunion workers in the U.S. — about 60 million people — were subject to mandatory arbitration in employment contracts. The agreements bar access to the courts for all types of legal claims, including those based on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the Fair Labor Standards Act.

“The practice is especially widespread in California,” said EPI attorney Marni von Wilpert. “This means that, when a worker is paid less than she is owed, is fired for being pregnant, or is underpaid because of her race, she cannot have her claim heard in a court of law. Instead, she is locked into a private arbitration process that favors the employer.”

Gonzalez Fletcher’s bill, unlike the 2015 version, does not invalidate current arbitration agreements that workers were obliged to sign.

“Arbitration is a highly effective dispute resolution method when both parties chose it freely,” she said. “It is far less successful when the more powerful party forces the other to accept the terms.”


A push to end mandatory workplace arbitration: Will aggrieved workers get their day in court?

Gov. Brown vetoes bill that would have protected workers’ right to sue employers

Navy reservist wants a day in court, not arbitration

CalPERS weighs push for sexual-harassment corporate disclosure

Las Vegas mogul Steve Wynn accused of sexual misconduct

Gretchen Carlson’s new book ‘Be Fierce’ finds the former Fox News anchor on the front lines in the fight against sexual harassment

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Southern California pay hits record highs as workers get more hours

Southern California’s weekly wages have hit record highs with old-fashioned help: workers getting extra work.

The pay peaks were revealed in regional pay data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis showing that local bosses are upping how long workers are on the clock as well as hourly pay.

My trusty spreadsheet tells me that the average weekly wage at private employers in Los Angeles and Orange counties was a record-high $955.30 for the 12 months ended in February. That’s up $27.33 a week — a $1,421 annualized boost — compared to the previous 12 months, or a 2.8 percent increase. In the previous five years, weekly wages grew at just 1.8 percent annually.

In Riverside and San Bernardino counties, weekly wages averaged a record-high $803.94 through February, up $33.55 a week. That’s a $1,745 annualized hike or a 4.36 percent gain. In the previous five years, Inland Empire weekly wages grew at 0.5 percent annually.

Now this weekly pay statistic is made up of two components: how many hours worked and at what hourly rate.

The length of the typical work week isn’t a very dynamic statistic, so small variations can be important. Bosses often juggle staffing levels to maximize business productivity while minimizing labor costs.

Heavier use of part-time workers is a common way bosses limited labor costs in recent years. And critics of California’s pro-worker workplace regulations claim those rules, especially the minimum wage hikes, can cut the hours offered to employees.

But a growing regional economy and low unemployment are apparently forcing local private-industry bosses to extend the work week of late.

For example, the average L.A.-O.C. work week in past year was 34.93 hours, the longest since November 2016.

Please note that the year-over-year increase equals 5.5 minutes more worked a week. That may seem tiny but this metric hasn’t moved up or down more than 36 minutes in a decade.

Sadly, 5.5 minutes is the biggest increase since March 2016. And the last time the typical U.S. employee got a larger increase in hours worked, by this metric? February 2015.

Plus, add that L.A.-O.C. increase in work to a one-year rise of 2.55 percent in the local hourly wage to $28.50 and you see increased hours worked and rising pay rate for three consecutive months. It’s been 19 months since that last happened.

The Inland Empire’s time worked also rose in the past year to a 15-month high of 35.1 hours a week.

Yes, it’s only up 3.5 minutes. But it comes along with a 4.2 percent jump in hourly pay rates to $22.90. It’s a second straight month of both time worked and what was paid for those hours increased.

The last time pay and hours rose at the same time in Riverside and San Bernardino counties?

Four years ago.


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The Inland Empire is leading California in job creation

California is outperforming the nation in job growth, and the state’s inland regions are leading the way, according to the latest UCLA Anderson Forecast.

In a turnaround from the norm, the report shows that the Inland Empire, San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento are outpacing some of California’s tech-heavy regions, which traditionally see the bigger job gains. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, according to the report.

More balanced growth

“Growth is now more balanced and the diversification of employment makes the state less vulnerable to one sector imploding,” the report said. “To be sure, if tech imploded as in 2001, it would be a serious blow to the state, but unlike 2001, the more balanced growth of today would focus the pain in one region rather than more generally.”

California employment hit an all-time high in January with more than 16 million nonfarm payroll jobs, the forecast said. That was 9.9 percent higher than the state’s pre-recession peak and 20.2 percent higher than at the depth of the last recession.

The biggest job creator

The study’s charts show that the Inland Empire is the state’s biggest job creator.

In December, the two-county region posted year-over-year job growth of 3.4 percent. The Silicon Valley grew by 2.2 percent during the same period, followed by the Sacramento Delta (2 percent), San Francisco (1.9 percent) and the San Joaquin Valley (1.7 percent). The nation’s job growth was 1.5 percent.

Orange County also expanded its payrolls by 1.5 percent and Los Angeles County ranked second to the bottom on the list with a gain of just 1.2 percent. All of those numbers are subject to revision, however, when new figures are released Wednesday from the state Employment Development Department.

California’s biggest employment gains have come in health care and social services, as well as leisure and hospitality. Technology and administrative services, which in past combined to be a major contributor to job growth, have now become only minor ones, the report said. And temporary workers are no longer being added in significant numbers, adding further confirmation that job markets are tight.

Why the shift occurred

Jerry Nickelsburg, director and senior economist for the Anderson Forecast, explained the shift in job creation:

“Back in 2008, we characterized the California economy as a bifurcated economy, where the coastal economy was beginning to grow and grew rapidly, leading the U.S. in the recovery,” he said. “The inland parts of the state were mired in recession for a very long time.”

The latest report shows that California is “in a time of convergence,” according to Nickelsburg.

“The inland parts of the state are growing more rapidly and are leading the state to outperform the U.S. economy,” he said. “The fact that the inland parts of the state are growing faster than most coastal regions suggests that the inland areas have room to continue to grow.”

The report ties the turnaround in job creation to a number of factors. San Francisco’s job growth has been hampered by the high cost of housing and limited office space, the study said, while a similar trend has been seen in the Silicon Valley, although to a lesser extent. The North Bay region of the San Francisco area has likewise been impacted by devastating wildfires. All of those areas are technology centers which typically fuel some of California’s stronger employment growth.

Playing catch-up

Nickelsburg said it’s largely a matter of playing catch-up after the last recession.

“The Inland Empire lost a lot of jobs in manufacturing and housing,” he said. “Manufacturing is not rebounding, but we’re seeing continued growth in construction, and housing is a big part of that.”

Inland Empire economist John Husing said much of the region’s construction activity involves the building of roadways, other transportation projects and massive e-commerce centers.

“Almost all of the e-commerce centers in Southern California have been built out here because they are big and require a lot of land,” he said. “Amazon has more than 16,000 employees in the Inland Empire. They have 10 e-commerce centers out here now and they’re in the process of building two more.”

Husing said the region’s logistics sector — which includes wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing — is the Inland Empire’s biggest job creator.

“About 20 percent of all our direct job gains have been in logistics,” he said. “And that doesn’t include the multipliers. When someone works for Amazon, they go to places like Stater Bros., so some of the jobs at Stater Bros. are indirectly supported by Amazon. And there are also commercial laundry companies where workers pick up their uniforms. All of that brings more money and jobs into the region.”

Future growth

The forecast predicts that California’s employment base will expand by 2.2 percent this year, 1.7 percent in 2019 and 0.9 percent in 2020. Home building is expected to accelerate to about 138,000 units per year by the end of 2020.

The study additionally notes that the ongoing increase in the federal deficit will put pressure on international trade, increasing the likelihood of trade actions that would depress California’s logistics and export industries.

Read more about The Inland Empire is leading California in job creation This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed. Santa Ana Shredding Service

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Working in California gets safer even as job count grows

California employers have performed a noteworthy juggling act: boosting staffing while lowering on-the-job deaths and injuries.

The latest workplace safety statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that as bosses statewide pushed employment above pre-recession highs in 2016, workplace deaths fell. Meanwhile, deaths on the job nationally rose to an eight-year high. Worker injuries fell both in the state and nationally that year.

Please note that on-the-job fatality and injury rates vary among states for numerous reasons — from the type of work commonly done (goods-producing industries, such as construction or factory jobs, are deadlier) to the level of economic activity (more employment, more chances for accidents) to violent crime patterns (yes, folks are murdered at work.) Plus, workplace safety advancements and the amount of regulation are factors in fatality patterns, too.

Here are four trends in workplace safety you should know …

1. How California ranks

Worker deaths may be just one measure of how safe one feels at work, but they’re an eye-catching benchmark.

And California had the fourth lowest rate of workplace fatalities in the nation in 2015-16, federal stats show.

In 2016, 376 Californians died on the job, down 12 from 2015. Yes, that’s the nation’s second-highest count of fatalities. But to fairly compare states, one must account for California’s status as the nation’s biggest jobs engine. So, workplace safety experts also track accidents on a per-capita basis.

That means fatal workplace injuries occurred in California at an average rate of 2.2 deaths for every 100,000 full-time equivalent workers in 2015-16. Only three other places fared better in the nation in this deaths-to-worker ratio.

No. 1 was Rhode Island at 1.5 fatalities per 100,000 workers. The District of Columbia was second with 1.9 fatalities per 100,000. Third was Connecticut at 2.1 fatalities per 100,000. Right behind California was a tie between Delaware and Washington at 2.25 fatalities per 100,000.

The mix of a state’s jobs is a factor. Ponder the key industries in the 10 states with the highest fatality rates: 20 percent of their private industry workers are in goods-producing jobs such as manufacturing and building trades. The 10 states with the lowest fatality rates had just 14 percent of workers in those more dangerous jobs.

Also, you’ll see regions with concentrations of energy production, another dangerous trade, among the highest fatality rates.

Tops for 2015-16 was Wyoming, 12.15 per 100,000 workers with 34 deaths in 2016, same as 2015. Next was North Dakota (9.75 per 100,000), then Montana (7.7 per 100,000) and Alaska (7.35 per 100,000). No. 5 was Mississippi at 6.55 per 100,000.

PS: The state with the most workplace deaths in 2016 was Texas with 545, up 18 vs. 2015. Its fatality rate of 4.45 per 100,000 ranked it 23rd best and was double California’s rate. Curiously, Texas doesn’t have a lot more goods-producing work than California, with 18 percent of its jobs in those riskier industries vs. 16.8 percent in California.

2. National uptick

Nationally, it was a different picture with 5,190 workers dying on the job in 2016. That’s up 354 fatalities or 7 percent.

It’s the third annual increase in a row and the highest number of deaths since 2008.

Sadly, drug and alcohol overdoses claimed 217 U.S. workers on the job in 2016, up 52 or 31 percent from 2015. U.S. occupations with large increases in deaths in 2016 included transportation and material moving, food preparation, installation, maintenance, repair occupations, grounds cleaning and sales.

Of note: U.S. protective services workers — from police to ski patrol to crossing guards — saw deaths nationwide rise in 2016 by 68, a 32 percent jump, to 281.

3. SoCal fatalities dip

Workplace fatalities in the six-county Southern California region dipped slightly in 2016.

The federal report shows 180 workplace deaths in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura counties in 2016. That’s down from 183 in 2015 as regional fatalities have remained under 200 since 2010. On-the-job deaths have averaged 236 a year from 2005 through 2009.

The moderate rate of local deaths is the result of a move toward more workers in safer office work as staffing levels in more dangerous jobs sit below historic levels. Within Southern California, here are 2016’s fatality patterns:

Los Angeles and Orange counties: The region’s only increase, up 13 deaths (14 percent) to 109. That’s the highest since 2011.

Riverside and San Bernardino counties: 46 in 2016, down 4, or 8 percent. That’s three deaths below the 2016-2005 average.

San Diego County: 19 in 2016, down 11, or 37 percent. That’s lowest since at least 2005.

Ventura County: 6 in 2016, down 1, or 14 percent. That’s the lowest since 2009.

4. Injuries also down

Federal estimates show 466,000 non-fatal injuries in 2016 at private and government workplaces in California, down from 471,000 in 2015.

While this is up from a mid-recession low of 441,000 — fewer workers, fewer chances for injuries — the most-recent result is far below 694,000 in 2002.

Nationwide, 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported by private industry employers in 2016, down 48,500 in a year.

What’s the typical California injury at work? Well, according to the state’s analysis of 2016 federal non-fatal workplace injury data …

Most likely hurt: Male, age 45 to 54, with the company 5-plus years.

Riskiest industries: The agriculture-mining-logging category and construction.

Most common cause: “Overexertion and bodily reaction” then “contact with object, equipment.”

Most frequent injury: Sprains, strains, and tears followed by soreness and pain.

Body parts most often hurt: Upper extremities, then the trunk.

Please note that California injuries at private employers occur at a higher per-worker rate than the average rate — 3.3 per 100 full-time positions private-industry vs. 2.9 nationwide — and 17th worst overall.

Still, it’s less likely a Californian gets hurt at work than around the turn of the century: The state’s injury rate has fallen consistently since 2002; the U.S. rate is down every year but one since 2004.


Southern California population grows at fastest pace since 2014

Southern California housing takes nation’s largest bite of local paychecks

Southern California homes overvalued? Appraisers suggest yes

What bums out employees at Orange County’s top workplaces

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