The Chemical Activity Barometer, a leading economic indicator created by the American Chemistry Council, jumped upward in January, predicting that the United States will enjoy a strong economy well into later this year.
On a year-over-year (Y/Y) basis, the barometer was up 1.4%. On a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis it was up 0.6% following a 0.1% increase December and being essentially flat in November (AA, 12-15-19, P. 3).
“The CAB signals gains in U.S. commerce into the third quarter of 2020,” said Kevin Swift, chief economist at the ACC.
The barometer’s diffusion index also rose to 62% in January. The diffusion index marks the number of positive contributors relative to the total number of indicators monitored.
The CAB diffusion index reading for December 2019 was revised upward by 0.33 points and that for November was revised downward by 0.22 points.
The barometer consists of four main components, each consisting of a variety of indicators: 1) production; 2) equity prices; 3) product prices; and 4) inventories and other indicators.
Production-related indicators swelled in January. Trends in construction-related resins, pigments and related performance chemistry all improved, suggesting further gains in housing.
Plastic resins used in packaging and for consumer and institutional applications were mixed. Performance chemistry improved, while U.S. exports were weak.
The council reported that equity prices rose, while product and input prices were mixed. Inventory and other indicators also were mixed.
<h3>CA’s Arbitration Law Is Blocked </h3>
A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction blocking California from enforcing a new law that bans almost all forms of employment arbitration while a trial proceeds to determine if the state’s action is preempted by federal law.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is challenging the law, called AB 51, which was passed by the state legislature last fall. The Chamber argues that the state law is preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act, which was enacted in 1926, as well as by the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution
If upheld, the law would impose criminal liability on employers who require applicants or employees to waive any right to pursue possible violations of California’s employment laws.
Businesses that are found to have violated these restrictions can be found guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment of up to six months or a fine up to $1,000, or both.
In spite of the injunction, employers should remain cautious, warn attorneys Amy Patton, Jeffrey K. Brown and Tyler Runge of the Payne & Fears law firm. “There is a long road ahead for this challenge to AB 51.”
If history is any indication, this case could very well be destined for the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and may even head to the U.S. Supreme Court, where a number of other California arbitration cases already have ended up.
The injunction is one of several that have been handed down in recent months calling a halt to enforcement of new California employment laws. A state and a federal judge also have handed down injunctions blocking enforcement of the new AB 5 law’s sweeping restrictions on independent contractors – but only in regard to truck owner- operators (AA, 1-31-20, P. 5).
<h3>EEOC Keeps Up Employer Suits</h3>
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed 72,675 charges of workplace discrimination in Fiscal Year 2019. Retaliation claims continue to top the list, making up more than half of the total.
The 39,110 retaliaition charges (53.8% of all charges filed) should gain your attention because it stems from circumstances that are totally under the control of the employer, according to attorney Reed L. Russell of the law firm of Phelps Dunbar.
“This latest statistic highlights the risk employers face if they mishandle complaints of workplace discrimination because an employee potentially can have an actionable retaliation claim, even if there is not necessarily underlying discrimination.”
Title VII and other federal anti-discrimination laws prohibit punishing or retaliating against job applicants and employees for asserting their rights to be free from employment discrimination, including sexual harassment, Russell points out.
The full breakdown claims ranked by number is:
1) Retaliation: 39,110 (53.8 % of all charges filed) 2) Disability: 24,238 (33.4 %) 3) Race: 23,976 (33.0 %) 4) Sex: 23,532 (32.4 % — down 1.2% from 2018) 5) Age: 15,573 (21.4 %) 6) National Origin: 7,009 (9.6 %) 7) Color: 3,415 (4.7 %) 8) Religion: 2,725 (3.7 %) 9) Equal Pay Act: 1,117 (1.5 %) 10) Genetic Information: 209 (0.3 %).
Disability and race comprise the largest number of substantive charges, notes attorney Richard B. Cohen of the FisherBroyles law firm.
“This may tend to tell you something about the stereotypes, fears and myths which permeate the workplace as a microcosm of society – to say nothing of ubiquitous racism,” he says.
A total of 72,675 charges were filed in FY 2019 compared to 76,418 in FY 2018, 84,254 in FY 2017, and 91,503 filed in FY 2016.