Yolo DA Threatens House Cleaners with Potential Labor Law Violations, Fraud

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By Robert J. Hansen

The Yolo County District Attorney’s Workers Compensation Fraud Unit has sent letters to house cleaners who are the owners and only employees of their businesses in the past few week.

Blue collar Latina naturalized immigrants received the letter telling them they are in violation of labor laws and warned they could face a $500 fine.

One woman, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation, said she was scared and irritated when she received the letter.

“I was scared and didn’t know what to do,” she said. “I don’t think it’s fair for them to do this. There are other businesses they could be looking at.”

She said she has been cleaning homes for twenty years and her income isn’t enough that she can afford worker’s compensation insurance.

The letter, sent by Investigator Paul Hillegas, says it was sent as part of a compliance program conducted by the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office to ensure that businesses with employees provide workers compensation insurance.

According to the letter it is fraud unit’s mission to reach out to businesses within Yolo County to spread workers’ compensation insurance awareness and to help ensure an even playing field for those businesses following the law.

Sending notices to small businesses owned by Latinas is discriminatory and unfair, according to West Sacramento City Councilmember Norma Alcala.

“A lot of these women are the breadwinners in their families so to threaten them with fines is keeping hard working people down,” Alcala said. “He’s (The DA) is just being a bully.”

She also thinks that “picking on” these house cleaners is a poor use of time and resources.

“They don’t have anything better to do? There are other businesses to investigate that would be a better benefit to the public,” Alcala said.

The letter said the DA assigns an investigator to investigate workers’ compensation fraud and may, at any time, require an employer to furnish a written statement showing the name of his or her insurer.

“Failure of the employer for a period of 10 days to furnish the written statement is a violation,” Investigator Hillegas said.

The letter said there is evidence that he or she has failed or neglected to show worker’s compensation insurance.

“An insured employer who fails to respond to inquiry respecting his or her status as to his or her workers’ compensation security shall be assessed and required to pay a penalty of five hundred dollars,” the letter said.

The woman said she knew other cleaning women who also received this letter.

“It’s irritating they (the DA’s office) are doing this when there are so many other real crimes to be investigating,” the woman said.

She said she has been a naturalized citizen since 2010.

“I respectfully demand that you provide proof of workers’ compensation insurance to our office within 10 days of receipt of this letter,” the investigator said.

Hillegas said to “provide a copy of your of workers’ compensation insurance coverage by the enclosed envelope, or above email address. The certificate must be current and refer to your name or business and the name of the company that provides insurance for your business.

“Be advised, failure to respond within the 10-day period can necessitate an on-site visit from our investigative staff. Unless stated otherwise by CA law. Businesses without employees are not required to provide workers’ compensation insurance,” the letter said.

“I don’t know what they think I make to afford worker compensation,” the woman said.

The DA’s office and the Workers Compensation fraud unit could not be reached for comment.

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About The Author

Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Robert is covering the Yolo County DA's race for the Vanguard.

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