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 ocregister.com/nominate
  • To nominate by phone, call  714-442-2768

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Top Workplaces 2019: Where employees are a company’s most valuable resource

When you own a business, employees are your most valuable resource.

Whether you’re selling auto parts, insurance or providing web design services, your employees’ expertise, work ethic and ability to function as a team will largely determine the success of your company.

But finding the right people isn’t easy. A 2018 report from Goldman Sachs reveals that 70 percent of small businesses struggle to find and retain skilled talent. Job seekers can afford to be choosier as a result since they have a wider range of career options to choose from.

One of the attributes of job seeker looks for in a top workplace is flexibility, according to Cynthia Shapiro, a career strategist based in Los Angeles.

“I’ve had several clients walk away from lucrative job offers because the company was too rigid,” she said. “Flexibility is where everything is going. It used to be ‘our way or the highway,’ but more and more companies have been loosening up with relaxed dress codes, bring your dog to work … all of that. But that does mean you’ll be working more hours because the line between work and home has been blurred.”

Bosses tend to pile on additional duties for employees who work from home because they see an empty chair, Shapiro said. But most work-at-home employees get more done, anyway.

“Even though the workload ramps up a bit they are more productive because they don’t have to sit through long-winded meetings or hour-long discussions about ‘Game of Thrones,’ ” she said.

So what kinds of perks can a CEO or HR manager offer to attract the kind of people they need? Crowdspring, an online marketplace for outsourced creative services, and ProStaff, a staffing and employment agency, offer some tips:

Flexible work schedules: Let’s face it, employees in today’s workplace often value their time as much as the compensation they receive. Flex hours, flex days and remote work give them the ability to balance their work and personal lives. So that top manager will have time to make it to her daughter’s dance recital, while another worker will be freed up to spend more time with an ailing parent. It’s a quality-of-life difference.

Opportunities for advancement: This is another biggie. No one wants to remain stagnant in one job forever. The promise of career advancement is a compelling enticement for both new hires and current employees. A 2016 Gallup poll found that 87% of millennials feel career growth opportunities are important in a job.

A positive corporate culture: The average American spends most of their day at work, so having a welcoming work environment makes a difference. A workplace fueled by long hours, harsh criticism and manipulative tactics won’t help any business retain employees. It won’t lure in many new workers either, as negative feedback tends to get around.

Companies should encourage their workers to treat each other as teammates, and bosses can make the workplace more desirable by creating opportunities to socialize. Group lunches, happy hours and “anything goes” meetings where employees can talk — about anything but work — will help.

Competitive wages: Businesses should start by determining the median wage for each job opening their company has. That will provide a clear picture of what people will expect to make. PayScale and Glassdoor are great resources for this. But keep in mind, it’s pricier to live in Southern California than in Peoria, Ill., so the compensation a business offer to out-of-state applicants should reflect California’s higher housing costs as well as higher prices for everything from gasoline and clothing to food and entertainment.

Crowdsourcing: Sometimes, employers aren’t in search of another full-time employee. They might be looking for part-time help to complete a project or list of tasks — someone who can scale their hours to match the company’s needs. That’s where crowdsourcing comes in. With so much gig work going on these days, there’s a deep pool of talent out there to choose from. Finding someone who will work part-time saves money and also allows a company to “audition” a worker for a permanent position that may crop up in the future.

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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.”

RELATED:

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.

DID YOU SEE?

Who was California’s best governor for housing?

Want a cure for housing shortage? Bring back savings and loans

Empty homes a California rarity as vacancies at 13-year low

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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.

DID YOU SEE …

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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