California company cited for wage theft violations

August 26, 2013 -  By

California labor commissioner Julie A. Su cited a Sacramento landscaping company $664,764 for wage theft violations affecting up to 43 workers from Aug. 9, 2010, through Aug. 8, 2013.

The sanctions against Michael Mello, owner of Green Valley Landscaping Services, included minimum wage violations of $338,176 for more than 40 employees, $169,088 in unpaid overtime and $157,500 for failure to provide itemized wage statements as required under California law.

May 2, 2012, the Labor Commissioner’s Office opened an investigation of Green Valley Landscaping after receiving a complaint as well as individual claims for underpayment of wages to employees and potential misclassification of employees as independent contractors.

A joint enforcement inspection conducted by California’s Labor Enforcement Task Force (LETF), a multi-agency group formed to combat the underground economy, revealed that Green Valley Landscaping was using a work force of up to 43 employees while reporting less than 10 employees on its payroll. The wage theft investigation subsequently uncovered evidence that the rest of the workforce was misclassified as independent contractors. In California, businesses must meet certain criteria to legally categorize their workers as independent contractors.

“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,” Su said. “This is a tactic by unscrupulous employers 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 contractors to compete.”

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