Construction companies in California sometimes misclassify employees as independent contractors so they do not have to provide them with worker’s compensation coverage and other benefits. This leaves workers who are injured in on-the-job accidents vulnerable and violates state law. When the California Department of Industrial Relations Labor Enforcement Task Force learns about these violations, construction companies can be fined as much as $25,000 for each misclassified worker. These harsh sanctions show how seriously lawmakers in the Golden State take workplace violations.
Paystubs and the minimum wage
LETF inspectors visited hundreds of construction sites in California in 2019, and the violations of the state’s wage and hour law they discovered led to fines of almost $1.2 million. Construction companies are most commonly cited for:
• Failing to pay their workers California’s minimum wage
• Not providing paystubs
• Misclassifying workers as independent contractors
• Not having valid workers’ compensation insurance in place
• Denying workers rest and meal breaks required by law
• Not having or failing to display licenses and permits required by law
• Not maintain required payroll records
• Violating workplace health and safety regulations
Penalties can add up quickly
The penalties for some of these violations are modest, but they can add up quickly when dozens or even hundreds of workers are involved. One construction company was sanctioned for not paying its workers the required minimum wage and denying them overtime pay when they worked more than 40 hours in a workweek. That construction company was ordered by the Department of Industrial Relations to pay back wages and penalties totaling $90,000 for violating California’s wage and hour law. The penalties for ignoring health and safety and workers’ compensation regulations are even more severe. Construction companies can be fined up to $25,000 for each safety violation, and failing to provide workers’ compensation insurance can lead to jail time.
Workers must speak up
Violations of workplace safety and wage and hour laws are common on construction sites because many of the workers employed in the building trade are unskilled and unaware of their rights. The company that was fined $90,000 was only investigated after workers complained to the Department of Industrial Relations. If they had not spoken up, their employer may have gone unpunished. This is why it is crucial that workers learn about the laws protecting them and file complaints when those laws are violated.