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. Under the Labor Code, the fine is paid to the California State Treasury to the credit of the Uninsured Employers Fund.
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.
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.
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.
The misdemeanor counts against Bufano are: Count 1, Failure to Obtain Workers’ Compensation Insurance Coverage and Count 2, Failure to Observe Stop Order.