CA Labor Commissioner Files Lien in Wage Theft Case

CA Labor Commissioner Files Lien in Wage Theft Case

An investigation by California's Labor Enforcement Task Force found the unpaid wages and also 13 workplace safety violations.

California Labor Commissioner Julie Su filed a mechanics' lien this week to recover unpaid wages totaling $247,681 for 31 construction workers at a Holiday Inn Express construction project in Eureka, Calif. from January through May 2013. The lien came about from an investigation on March 27 by Su's office and Cal/OSHA as part of a joint enforcement action by California's Labor Enforcement Task Force.

"This joint enforcement action underscores our commitment to target unscrupulous employers who commit wage theft and put their workers at risk. Companies that hire out of state construction contractors need to know that they will be held liable unless the contractors comply with state labor laws and workplace safety regulations," said Christine Baker, director of the Department of Industrial Relations, parent agency of the Labor Commissioner's office and the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, commonly known as Cal/OSHA.

The local carpenters union, Carpenters Local 751, filed a report of labor law violations against the construction project. The lien encumbers the property to secure wages that are owed. Some workers were misclassified to save on wages, while some employees were paid with checks that bounced.

"This is a significant tool we have for getting the wages paid," Su said. "Misclassification of employees as independent contractors harms legitimate businesses and cheats the hardworking men and women of California who are entitled to a just day's pay for a hard day's work. This is an underhanded tactic to deny workers' pay for every regular hour worked and overtime. Misclassification is also used to cut costs and to underbid projects, making it extremely difficult for legitimate construction contractors to compete."

The safety violations including five categorized as serious for unsafe ladders, failure to provide fall protection and scaffolding, inadequate training to recognize fall hazards, and unguarded saws. As a result, Cal/OSHA issued citations against Lupton Construction/PacWest for $27,000 on May 7.

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