California Agencies Put Brakes on Auto Body Shops

May 31, 2005
Several California state agencies have issued 82 citations and $226,650 in fines for workers' compensation and other labor violations after a recent 3-day sweep of auto repair shops.

The sweep, referred to as an "Underground Economy Operation" by the California Department of Industrial Relations, was conducted by the department's divisions of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) and Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), in cooperation with Santa Clara County and San Mateo Regional Auto Theft Taskforce and local police agencies.

In addition to the citations and fines, the enforcement effort resulted in one arrest and seizure of three stolen vehicles, according to the Department of Industrial Relations.

As a result of 28 citations:

  • DLSE issued 38 citations that included violations for having no workers' compensation coverage, no evidence of pay stubs given to employees, non-payment of minimum wage, employment of minors with no work permit and at least six audits.
  • The Employment Development Department was given 14 referrals for possible non-payment of pay roll taxes.
  • The San Mateo Regional Auto Theft Taskforce made one arrest on an outstanding warrant and seized three stolen vehicles/engines.
  • Cal/OSHA is investigating 44 possible violations with estimated penalties totaling $38,000.
  • The Bureau of Auto Repair received five referrals.

The department is calling the multi-agency operation a success, largely because the agencies strategically screened and targeted suspect businesses.

"The purpose of the multi-agency operations is to make the best use of various law enforcement agencies, especially in this time of shrinking public resources," said California Labor Commissioner Donna Dell. "We see this as an opportunity to not only protect legitimate business, employees and consumers, but California's economy as well. In addition, this is an opportunity to educate employees and employers on their rights and responsibilities."

While these public agencies have been working together on joint enforcement operations, or sweeps, since 1993, efforts to crackdown have been stepped up under the current administration.

"We want a level playing field for all legitimate businesses in California," Dell said. "Unscrupulous operators have a leg up on legitimate business because they can charge less for their services. In the meantime the employees suffer with inadequate pay, no compensation if they are injured and a higher rate of injury because of health and safety violations. The consumer suffers by the operators shoddy business practices."

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