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Thriving underground economy targeted in statewide multi-agency outreach and enforcement effort

News: 2016 Press Release

For Release: May 19, 2016
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
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Thriving underground economy targeted in statewide multi-agency outreach and enforcement effort

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The California Department of Insurance yesterday, led a statewide enforcement outreach focused on providing information to businesses that may operate in California's multi-billion dollar underground economy. The multi-agency team, which included the Contractors State License Board, the Employment Development Department, Franchise Tax Board, Department of Industrial Relations and local district attorneys visited dozens of locations across the state to educate business owners of their obligations to comply with insurance, licensing, workplace safety, labor laws and tax codes.

Safety, licensing and insurance violations were found at approximately 20 of the businesses visited. Some were found to not have required licenses or workers' compensation insurance and were issued immediate stop work orders, others received administrative citations and penalties for workplace safety violations, and some received audit referrals.

"Businesses operating in the underground economy have an unfair and illegal competitive advantage that undermines legitimate businesses and comes at the expense of workers and consumers," said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.

Enforcement teams visited a wide variety of businesses including security firms, restaurants, environmental waste companies, personnel services, home design, roofing, tree services, limousines and charter bus companies, moving companies, retail stores, and construction sites to verify contractors had valid licenses, workers' compensation insurance and to check that workplace safety measures were followed.

Tree trimming and removal services caught the attention of the team, as residents look to remove trees killed by wildfire or bark beetles. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported recently there are more than 40 million dead trees in California posing a significant fire danger. The team verified licenses and workers' compensation insurance and made sure the companies complied with all labor and safety code requirements. 

Homeowners should make sure contractors they hire, including tree service companies, are properly licensed and have a valid workers' compensation insurance policy. If a contractor does not have workers' compensation insurance, the homeowner could be liable for any worker injuries that occur on their property.

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Media Notes:

  • For geographic-specific data see below-
    • Sacramento Valley: Four tree services companies and one landscaping company visited; three companies were found with violations and two had no violations. Violations found included a stop work order issued by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement; no workers' compensation insurance, Cal/OSHA issued eight workplace safety violations, two of which were serious, and one prohibit-use order for unsafe equipment.
    • Bay Area, including Silicon Valley: Nine businesses visited, including home remodeling, charter bus and limousine services, and moving companies. Four companies had no violations. The five companies with violations ranged from a stop work order for no workers' compensation insurance to penalties for contracting without a license.
    • Fresno: Three businesses were visited, including an ambulance company and two tire stores. More than a dozen workplace safety violations were found at the three businesses and one was issued a stop work order for no workers' compensation insurance. 
    • Los Angeles and Inland Empire: 12 businesses were visited, including restaurants, a vape shop, hotels, a nursery, builders and auto services. Violations ranged from no workers' compensation insurance to workplace safety violations.
    • San Diego: Three construction businesses were visited; one had no violations and two had violations ranging from more than a dozen with workplace safety violations to illegal advertising.
  • Photos and videos from the statewide outreach are available for viewing:
  • State Agency Contacts for more information regarding specific violations
    Contractors State License Board: 916-255-4161
    Employment Development: 916-654-9029
    Department of Industrial Relations: 510-286-7046
    Department of Insurance: 916-599-1320
    Franchise Tax Board: 916-845-7940
    Board of Equalization: 916-327-8988

Led by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, the California Department of Insurance is the consumer protection agency for the nation's largest insurance marketplace and safeguards all of the state’s consumers by fairly regulating the insurance industry. Under the Commissioner’s direction, the Department uses its authority to protect Californians from insurance rates that are excessive, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory, oversee insurer solvency to pay claims, set standards for agents and broker licensing, perform market conduct reviews of insurance companies, resolve consumer complaints, and investigate and prosecute insurance fraud. Consumers are urged to call 1-800-927-4357 with any questions or contact us at via webform or online chat. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800-927-4357. Teletypewriter (TTY), please dial 800-482-4833.

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