SALINAS – On June 25, 2018 the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office announced that James Abner Smith, 48, of Monterey, pleaded guilty to a charge involving the failure to obtain workers’ compensation insurance for his employees with one prior conviction.
Smith, a California contractor, owns and manages Carmel Landscape Company. On May 17, 2017, the Contractors State Licensing Board (CSLB) investigated a landscaping project at a Carmel residence involving multiple workers. The CSLB investigator determined that the project belonged to Smith. Although workers were present on site and identified Mr. Smith as their employer, Mr. Smith had previously told the CSLB that he did not have employees and was, therefore, “exempt” from workers’ compensation requirements.
“CSLB investigators work throughout the year to protect consumers and also to protect contractors who are following California law,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “Those who skirt the law to save money are putting law-abiding contractors at a disadvantage when bids for jobs are made. In addition, they are putting consumers at risk should one of their workers become injured on the job.”
Smith was cited for being in violation of Labor Code section 3700.5. The matter was referred to the Monterey County District Attorney’s Workers’ Compensation Fraud Unit for criminal charges. The District Attorney reviewed the case, determined that Smith had a prior conviction for failing to secure workers compensation insurance, and filed charges.
Smith is scheduled to be sentenced on September 28, 2018. He faces a maximum possible sentence of one year in county jail and a $50,000 fine.
California law mandates that employees be covered by workers’ compensation insurance so that there is adequate medical coverage and other benefits for employees for any work-related injuries that may occur. The mere fact that a worker is hired to simply work on several projects does not, by itself, mean that the worker is not an employee for whom workers compensation insurance must be purchased. The failure to secure workers’ compensation insurance is a criminal offense in California.