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Melissa Kernea prepares to pick up a load of yarn off of a conveyor belt at Mohawk Industries, Inc. in Dalton where she has worked for five years.

America's best employer for 2018 is a company that employs thousands of Americans but is headquartered in France.

In its annual review of the best employers, Forbes magazine said the best major employer in the United States is tire manufacturer Michelin, followed by the grocery chain Trader Joe's and Google.

Best employers in America

1. Michelin Group

2. Trader Joe’s

3. Google

4. Principal Financial Group

5. Costco Wholesale

Source: Forbes - Best employers in America

"At Michelin, our dedication to our workforce is best defined by two key words: We care," said David Stafford, chief human resources officer for Michelin North America.

Among companies headquartered in the Chattanooga region, America's biggest carpet makers and Tennessee's biggest health insurer also are among the top 500 major employers in the country, according to Forbes magazine's annual ranking released Tuesday.

The Calhoun, Ga.-based Mohawk Industries, the Dalton, Ga.-based Shaw Industries and the Chattanooga-based BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee each rated by workers as one of the best employers in America.

The Forbes annual ranking is based upon surveys of nearly 30,000 employees at companies with at least 1,000 people. The respondents were each asked 30 detailed questions about working conditions to select the top-rated employers.

Top area employers

Top area employers" align="left">Among the top 500 employers, those with major local operations include:

7. Southern Co. (Georgia Power)

38. Publix Super Markets

56. Keller Williams Realty

155. Delta Air Lines

205. Clayton Homes

228. Mars

230. State of Tennessee

234. Norfolk Southern

319. FexEx

324. Amazon

395. Whirlpool

405. Mohawk Industries

417. United Parcel Service

440. Shaw Industries

491. BlueCross & BlueShield of Tennessee

Forbes: Best 500 employers for 2018

"We're gratified that the men and women who work at Mohawk view their experience in such a positive light, and we are expanding the value proposition we offer them in return for their many contributions to the company's growth and success," said Phil Brown, Mohawk's senior vice president of human resources. "With wellness benefits, many on-site clinics, a world-class safety record, award-winning training and apprenticeship programs and friendly, welcoming workplaces, we are focused on making Mohawk the best possible place for individuals to fulfill their professional potential while improving their quality of life."

Mohawk's biggest rival, Shaw Industries, ranked just below Mohawk in the Forbes 500 listing and was among 17 Georgia companies on the Forbes list.

"Even as Shaw continues to invest in new and upgraded manufacturing facilities, we know that our most important asset is our people, " said Vance Bell, chairman and CEO of Shaw Industries. "More than 22,000 passionate, talented individuals come to work every day at Shaw to produce industry-leading flooring solutions and to create a better future for their families and communities – and our customers and company."

BlueCross and BlueShield of Tennessee, which has more than 5,000 employees and an annual payroll of more than $475 million in Chattanooga where the health insurer is headquartered on Cameron Hill, was among 11 Tennessee companies included in Forbes list of 500 best employers.

"Offering competitive wages and incentive opportunities is an important way BlueCross attracts and retains top talent," Gary Steele, vice president of human resources at BlueCross, said in a recent memo to company employees announcing a higher minimum wage.

BlueCross said effective April 23 the company is boosting its minimum wage for all workers to $15 an hour, raising the pay for nearly 200 workers employed by BlueCross across the state, and boosting the pay for nearly 400 nurses and other workers "as unemployment continues to decline and the labor market becomes increasingly global."

The $15 minimum follows similar increases in the base pay by Unum Group, Chattanooga's biggest publicly traded company, and First Tennessee Bank, the the biggest bank in both Chattanooga and Tennessee. Steele said the wage increases are designed to keep BlueCross wages competitive to attract top talent to the company and to better differentiate salaries and appropriately above the new higher entry-level rate.

"Nurses are in high demand across multiple health care disciplines, including hospitals, insurance companies and more," Steele said. "To remain competitive, we're increasing pay for around 200 of our current nurse employees, as well as implementing standardized hiring rates for our teams of nurses across the company."

The higher wages follow an announcement by BlueCross earlier this year that it is extending its paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child to include eight weeks of paid leave for an employee giving birth, four weeks of paid leave for an employee who is the non-birth parent (spouse or domestic partner who did not give birth) and four weeks of paid leave for adoptive parents (including domestic partners) for the birth or placement of an adopted child.

In addition, adoption assistance of up to $5,000 is provided to help employees cover the legal expenses associated with adoption — such as adoption agency charges, placement fees and court costs.

According to a recent survey for the Society of Human Resource Management, only 18 percent of companies nationwide provide paid parental leave for birth parents, and only 12 percent offer a paid leave for spouses or partners.

But Steele said BlueCross is committed to helping those starting a family.

"For the health and wellness of the family – not to mention a terrific start for a new or growing family – we feel it's an important new benefit to add," he said.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.

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