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Release Number: 2021-122
Date: December 16, 2021

California Labor Commissioner Collects Over $2.6 Million in Wages for 100 Workers on a Public Works Project

Long Beach— The Labor Commissioner’s Office collected $2,631,876 in wages and $37,672 in apprenticeship training funds resulting from a prevailing wage assessment against Torrance-based general contractor TOBO Construction, Inc. The wages collected will compensate 100 workers for unpaid prevailing wages and overtime while working on a construction project on El Camino Community College’s campus in Torrance.

“Contractors on publicly-funded construction projects must pay workers a prevailing wage,” said Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower. “TOBO Construction, Inc. cheated these workers out of millions of dollars in pay and benefits.”

El Camino Community College District hired TOBO Construction, Inc., a general building, engineering and electrical contractor, as prime contractor to build a $35 million Student Services Center building. Workers hired included bricklayers, carpenters, drywall installers, laborers, ironworkers, steel framers and other trades workers.

The Labor Commissioner’s Office opened its investigation in May 2018 after receiving a report of public works violations from the Carpenters Contractors Cooperation Committee and the Painters and Allied Trades Compliance Administrative Trust. The investigation included interviews with over 40 workers and an audit of payroll records, which were turned over only after the investigators served subpoenas on TOBO Construction, Inc.

The investigation determined that TOBO Construction had maintained false payroll records over a 31-month period to cover up the wage theft. The contractor hired brokers to provide staffing for the construction project, and those brokers paid the workers in cash or personal checks $100 to $160 per day. Investigators reviewed thousands of falsified checks that were not issued to workers, many of them signed by the same person.

Additionally, investigators found that TOBO Construction failed to comply with apprenticeship requirements for a public works project. TOBO Construction failed to provide contract award information to all applicable apprenticeship committees, and failed to hire apprentices in the required ratio of one hour of apprentice work for every five hours performed by journeypersons in the applicable craft or trade.

The Labor Commissioner’s Office cited TOBO Construction, Inc. in September 2018 for unpaid wage assessments, civil penalties and training funds. The company filed for bankruptcy in February 2020. Their state contractor’s license and public work’s contractor registration also expired in 2020.

The collection of wages for the prevailing wage assessment issued against TOBO Construction resulted from a settlement reached between the Labor Commissioner’s Office and the International Fidelity Insurance Company and Allegheny Casualty Company, the bonding companies hired by TOBO Construction.

In addition to the $2.6 million collected for the Student Services Center building project, the Labor Commissioner previously collected $542,872 in unpaid prevailing wages assessed against TOBO Construction in public works projects located across Los Angeles County.

The Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (California Labor Commissioner’s Office) combats wage theft and unfair competition by investigating allegations of illegal and unfair business practices.

All workers employed on public works projects must be paid the prevailing wage determined by the Director of the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR), according to the type of work and location of the project. Failure to comply with public works requirements can result in civil penalties, criminal prosecution, or both. Employees with questions about their rights may call the Labor Commissioner’s Office at 833-LCO-INFO (833-526-4636).

Enforcement investigations typically include a payroll audit to determine prevailing wage, overtime, apprenticeship and skilled and trained workforce violations and calculate payments owed and penalties due.

The Labor Commissioner’s Office in 2020 launched an interdisciplinary outreach campaign, “Reaching Every Californian.” The campaign amplifies basic protections and builds pathways to affected populations so workers and employers understand legal protections and obligations, and the Labor Commissioner’s enforcement procedures. Californians can follow the Labor Commissioner on Facebook and Twitter.

Contact: Communications@dir.ca.gov, (510) 286-1161