By Scott Alonso, Public Information Officer, Office of the District Attorney, Contra Costa County
On December 18, a Contra Costa County jury found defendant David Michael Bufano guilty of violating California Labor Code for failing to provide workers’ compensation insurance for his employees. Bufano is the owner and operator of Grant Street Pub & Pizzeria in Concord and has at least 18 employees. Additionally, the jury found Bufano violated state law when he violated a stop work order issued by the Department of Industrial Relations.
Bufano was sentenced to two years of court probation and fined $10,000 by the Honorable Charles Burch in Department 23 at the Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez. Under the Labor Code, the fine is paid to the California State Treasury to the credit of the Uninsured Employers Fund. Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney Caleb Webster prosecuted the case behalf of the People for this misdemeanor jury trial. DDA Webster is assigned to the Office’s Special Operations Division in the Workers’ Compensation Fraud Unit.
In July 2018, the District Attorney’s Office filed a criminal complaint against Bufano. The criminal filing stemmed from a joint enforcement strike force operation with the District Attorney’s Office, Department of Industrial Relations’ Labor Commissioner’s Office and Employment Development Department. Inspectors from these agencies conducted surprise inspections at Contra Costa County restaurants during the summer of 2018. These restaurants were suspected of deliberately evading the obligation to provide workers’ compensation insurance to employees.
“The jury verdict in this case underscores the importance we must place on actively protecting employees in the workplace. All too often, employees first discover their employers lack the appropriate coverage after injuries occur and the employees are stuck with medical bills to pay. Employers need to follow the law and protect their staff,” stated DDA Webster.
Bufano’s restaurant was cited on June 25 and a stop work order was issued by the Labor Commissioner until he could provide proof of workers’ compensation insurance. The very next day, Bufano’s employees were back at work at his direction in violation of the stop work order. On June 27, a follow-up inspection revealed that the restaurant remained open for business and employees were present working. Bufano still had not obtained workers’ compensation insurance at the point of the follow-up inspection. He was cited by the Labor Commissioner and fined $6,000.
“This conviction demonstrates that employers who cheat their workers — whether of wages or the protections of workers compensation — will not get away with it,” said California Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su. “The victims of such practices are not just working people but law-abiding employers and we will do everything in our power to level the playing field.”
Willful failure to provide the insurance is punishable by substantial fines and misdemeanor criminal prosecution. Employees that do not know whether they are covered can check their employer’s notices board or ask a manager. Labor Code section 3550 requires an employer to post a notice identifying the current insurance at a conspicuous location.
Anyone with information about employers who dissuade employees from filing claims after they are injured, lie to a workers compensation insurance carrier about who is employed and what jobs they actually do, or fail to provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage at all, can report that information to DA-ReportFraud@contracostada.org. Labor Code section 1102.5 prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee who reports a violations of a California statute, rule, or regulation to a supervisor or government agency.
The misdemeanor counts against Bufano are:
- Count 1, Failure to Obtain Workers’ Compensation Insurance Coverage
- Count 2, Failure to Observe Stop Order
Case information: People v. David Michael Bufano, Docket Number 01-186535-1.