Under Florida law, businesses engaged in the construction industry with one or more employees must provide workers' compensation coverage, which protects workers who are injured or killed on the job.
"Contractors who provide coverage to protect their workers continually tell us how difficult it is to compete with those who cheat the system," Florida's Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher said. "We have seen workers' compensation rates fall and the availability of coverage increase in recent years largely due to the efforts of our investigators to root out fraud and abuse."
Twenty-five supervisors and investigators from Miami, Plantation and Fort Myers conducted sweeps in Miami. That operation made 333 contacts and wrote 35 stop-work orders.
Thirty-six supervisors and investigators from Jacksonville, Pensacola, Orlando and Tampa conducted sweeps in the Orlando area. They made 515 contacts and wrote 65 stop-work orders.
In many cases in which it was difficult to establish whether adequate coverage had been obtained, a request for business records was issued.
Under a stop-work order, a business must immediately cease all operations. The order is lifted once the employer obtains the proper coverage and pays a civil penalty equal to the amount of 1.5 times the workers' compensation premiums avoided. Employers who violate a stop-work order in Florida face a penalty of $1,000 per day of violation and may also face criminal charges.
During the 2003 legislative session, Gallagher called on lawmakers to make several important reforms to the workers' compensation system in an effort to stem the tide of rising premiums. As part of the reforms, the Division of Workers' Compensation was granted greater enforcement authority to ensure businesses provide coverage for their employees.
Many of the violations uncovered during the recent sweep fall under the new authority. Since the reforms were passed, workers compensation rates have fallen overall by over 19 percent statewide, the agency says.