California AG Sues Bakersfield Contractor for Violating Workers’ Rights

January 22, 2009

California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. has filed a lawsuit to recover $4.13 million in lost wages, benefits and penalties from a drywall contractor who “cruelly and illegally” violated the rights of its workers by prohibiting them from taking rest breaks, denying overtime pay and forcing them to work without safety equipment.

“This company failed to provide safe working conditions for its workers and then cheated them out of overtime pay and benefits,” Attorney General Brown said. “Employees were cruelly and illegally forced to work long hours without state-required breaks or compensation.”

The lawsuit, filed in Kern County Superior Court against Bakersfield-based Charles Evleth Construction, alleges that because the firm did not pay its workers a fair wage or pay state taxes, Evleth had an unfair advantage over its competitors and could underbid them for jobs.

The lawsuit alleges that Charles Evleth Construction Inc.:

• Failed to provide its employees with overtime pay, instead paying them a daily flat rate.
• Prevented its employees from taking breaks.
• Withheld wages from employees and used the savings for incentive pay for supervisors.
• Failed to provide its employees with work tools, forcing them to provide their own.
• Failed to properly provide workers’ compensation coverage for their employees.
• Denied its employees a correct, itemized written statement of their wages.
• Paid its employees with cash, avoiding state and federal taxes, state unemployment insurance and the state disability fund payments.
• Failed to provide its employees with required safety equipment.

Attorney General Brown seeks $3.13 million in restitution for workers and $1 million in civil penalties for violations of California law requiring employers to provide overtime pay, breaks, workers’ compensation and other benefits for employees. The lawsuit also seeks a permanent injunction against future violations.

The Underground Economy Unit of the Attorney General’s Office conducted the investigation. The Unit interviewed many of Evleth’s employees and found nearly 1,200 violations of California law, the AG’s office indicated.

Source: AG

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