10/04/2013 // Keller Grover LLP (Press Release) // Eric Grover // (press release)

For three years, 43 workers of a Sacramento landscaping company were cheated out their wages, leading California Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su to levy a $664,764 sanction against the employer for wage theft violations, reports Los Angeles wage and hour lawyer Eric Grover of Keller Grover LLP.

The California Labor Commissioner’s Office launched the investigation in May 2012 after it received a complaint, along with individual claims that alleged underpayment, and potential misclassification of employees as independent contractors.

The Labor Commissioner’s Office uncovered that Green Valley Landscaping had up to 43 employees but was reporting fewer than 10 employees in its payroll records. This led the Commissioner’s Office to conclude that the rest of Green Valley’s employees were misclassified 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,” said Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su. “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, added Su.”

In the state of California, businesses must abide by strict guidelines when classifying workers as independent contractors, adds Grover, an LA employment lawyer.

Green Valley Landscaping Services and its owner, Michael Mello, are required to pay 169,088 in unpaid overtime and $157,500 for failure to provide itemized wage statements as required under California law, as well as minimum wage violations of $338,176 to 43 workers.

“As Commissioner Su pointed out, business that try to skirt paying proper wages only make it more difficult for legitimate businesses to compete in a highly competitive market. These businesses, who are not properly paying their workers, are bidding jobs at lower prices causing a domino effect by preventing legitimate businesses from acquiring contracts and paying their staff in accordance with the law,” says LA wage and hour lawyer Eric Grover. “If you believe your employer is cheating you out of pay or you have questions about how your position has been classified, contacting an employment lawyer is the first step towards correcting the job environment for you and those who you work alongside.”

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