AB 1675, authored by Assemblywoman Susan A. Bonilla (D-Concord), was signed into law by Governor Brown to strengthen the existing farm labor contractor licensing law; while at the same time ensures farmworkers are employed by contractors that are operating according to the law.
“This bill will assist the Labor Commissioner in its enforcement efforts, will guarantee bad actors are penalized, and will deter unlicensed contractor activities through the assessment of civil penalties,” said Assemblywoman Bonilla.
Under existing law farm labor contractors are required to be licensed; however, there is no penalty for farm labor contractors that practice without a license. The Labor Commissioner’s only enforcement authority is to refer the matter for a possible criminal misdemeanor prosecution, which is costly to the state. As such, licensing violations are rarely, if ever, prosecuted and leave the Labor Commissioner, without the legal weapons that exist in other contexts. For example, in the construction industry operating without a license is subject to a civil penalty of $200 per employee, for each day of the contract.
“AB 1675 gives the Labor Commissioner new tools to attack the underground economy operators to flout state law and operate without licenses. By allowing for a penalty of up to $50K for acting without a license, the bill sends a strong message that operating without a license is a serious offense,” said Mark Schacht, Deputy Director for the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation.
Civil penalties collected, from unlicensed contractors, will be deposited in the existing Farmworker Remedial Account, which is overseen by the Labor Commission, as a farmworker wage protection fund. The account funds are derived from contractor licensing fees and accessed when contractors are unable to pay their workers or to make an employee whole when they’ve been wronged by the contractor.