Calif. AG sues contractor for workers' rights violations

Legal News Line Jan. 23, 2009, 12:02am

Jerry Brown (D)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline) - California Attorney General Jerry Brown filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking $4.13 million in lost wages, benefits and penalties from a drywall contractor based in Bakersfield, Calif.

Brown filed his suit in Kern County Superior Court against Charles Evleth Construction, claiming the company did not pay workers a fair wage, did not pay state taxes and had an unfair advantage over other companies that allowed it to successfully underbid competitors for jobs.

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

According to court documents, the attorney general believes Evleth Construction paid laborers a daily flat rate, instead of hourly and overtime wages as required by law.

Breaks were denied as a matter of course, proper tools were denied thereby forcing employees to buy their own, and the company failed to provide workers' compensation. Employees were paid in cash so that state and federal benefits could be avoided, the lawsuit alleges.

The violations included withholding wages from employees and using that money to give bonuses to supervisors who enforced the working conditions, according to the attorney general.

The Underground Economy Unit of the attorney general's office conducted an investigation, which included interviewing many company employees.

More than 1,000 violations of state law were discovered, the attorney general's office said.

This lawsuit is the latest in several filed against California companies that do not properly pay employees. Several trucking companies from southern California ports were sued in 2008 for similar violations.

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