Joint Operation Sweeps Dozens of Work Sites in Butte County
"Project Fair Chance" Targets Workers' Comp Cheaters
CHICO — The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is working with the Butte County District Attorney's Office to send a strong message warning contractors that they must carry workers' compensation insurance on their employees. CSLB investigators and Butte County DA investigators swept through more than 50 construction sites in Paradise, Chico, Magalia and Oroville this past Friday.
The joint teams of investigators interviewed contractors and employees at the worksites. Citations were issued to 11 contractors who had employees and did not carry workers' comp insurance, as required by California law. Contractors can face automatic license suspension for failing to having workers' compensation insurance and could have their licenses permanently revoked. The 11 contactors were also fined a total of $7,250 in civil penalties.
"This is serious business," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "Workers' compensation insurance is there to protect contractors and their workers if someone gets hurt on the job." If contractors don't carry the insurance, they can face fines more than twice what they would have paid for insurance premiums, or even higher if injuries were involved. The violating contractors may have liens placed against their property and possibly serve prison time. "There are also liability issues for people who hire contractors who don't carry workers' comp," warns Sands. "If a worker is injured on the site, the property owner can be sued."
"One of the goals of this sweep was to level the playing field for contractors who do follow the law," said Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey. "Contractors who operate illegally without workers' comp often bid lower on jobs providing unfair competition. That's the reason, we called this sweep 'Project Fair Chance'."
During the sweep, CSLB investigators also checked the licenses status of contractors they contacted. Five individuals were issued Notices to Appear (NTA) in Butte County Superior Court for contracting without a valid State license. The violators could face a maximum of six months in jail or a $1,000 fine for the first offense. A second violation carries a mandatory 90-day jail sentence.
CSLB Investigators also used this occasion to counsel licensees about CSLB laws, rules and regulations. By law, the CSLB must license all contractors who perform work that totals $500 or more in labor materials.
The CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips when dealing with a contractor:
- Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see their license and a picture ID
- Don't rush into decisions and don't hire the first contractor who comes along
- Be especially hesitant when approached by someone offering home improvement services door-to-door, especially when they will use material they claim is left over from another job
- Verify the contractor's license and workers' compensation insurance by checking online at www.cslb.ca.gov or via CSLB's automated phone service at 1-800-321-CSLB (2752)
- Don't pay more than 10 percent down or $1,000, whichever is less
- Don't pay cash, and don't let the payments get ahead of the work
- Get three bids, check references, and get a written contract
- Contact the CSLB if you have a complaint against a contractor
Consumers can also read or order helpful publications, such as "What You Should Know Before You Hire A Contractor", free of charge by going online to www.cslb.ca.gov or by calling 1-800-321-CSLB (2752).
The Contractors State License Board, which operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs, licenses and regulates California's 280,000 contractors, and investigates more than 20,000 complaints annually.
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