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California DIR launches Labor Enforcement Task Force

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Jan. 4, 2012—The California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) launched a new Labor Enforcement Task Force (LETF) Jan. 1, a collaborative effort between state agencies to combat illegal business activities and improve California's business environment.

The DIR said LETF will help ensure that workers' rights are protected, and that law-compliant business owners have an opportunity for healthy competition in California.

"The goal of LETF is to ensure fair and safe working conditions in all workplaces and promote a level playing field for employers through education and enforcement of state laws," said Marty Morgenstern, labor and workforce agency secretary for the DIR. "Labor law violators endanger workers and have an unfair market advantage over law-abiding businesses. We cannot tolerate businesses that skirt the law."

The DIR said LETF's focus on collaboration, wider information-sharing and use of new technology for enforcement will ensure more effective targeting of businesses that conduct illegal practices, and will help eliminate the worst violations of workers' rights and protections.

Businesses that conduct illegal activities typically violate many laws designed to protect workers and the economy, the DIR said. Law violations often include failure to pay income taxes, unemployment insurance or disability insurance; failure to carry workers' compensation coverage; failure to pay proper wages; and failure to register for required licenses or permits. Those violations cause business operations to pay lower overhead costs, which give them unfair competitive advantages over legitimate, law-abiding businesses, according to the DIR.

The DIR said LETF’s goals include the following:

• Ensure that workers receive lawful wages and are provided with safe working conditions.
• Ensure the state receives taxes due from employers, and collects penalties owed by employers who violate labor laws.
• Level the playing field so that employers who comply with the law and support California's economy do not have to compete with employers who break the law.
• Conduct outreach and education efforts to inform businesses of their rights and responsibilities under the law.
• Eliminate illegal business practices.

"This effort is using state resources judiciously in a time of limited funding to allow key agencies to collaborate and direct their best efforts to fight the menace of the underground economy," said Christine Baker, director of the DIR. "Legitimate businesses grow California's economy; they are our economic backbone. It is the mission of LETF to see that those businesses are protected."

In addition to the DIR, the primary partners of the LETF include the Employment Development Department, Contractor's State Licensing Board, Board of Equalization and the Bureau of Automotive Repair. LETF will also collaborate with the Department of Insurance, attorney general and local district attorneys, according to the DIR.

"By joining forces with other agencies conducting inspections, we can have a greater impact on stopping labor violations and the underground economy,” Baker said. "Collaboration will also save time and money by avoiding overlapping inspections and focusing our efforts on the egregious violators."

For more information on California employer and employee rights and responsibilities, visit dir.ca.gov.

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