A Sacramento, California landscape company has been cited by the California Labor Commissioner, Julie Su, with $665,000 in wage theft violations over a three-year period.

Sanctions against Michael Mello, owner of Green Valley Landscaping Services, include minimum wage violations of $338,175 for more than 40 employees, $169,088 in unpaid overtime and $157,500 for failure to provide itemized wage statements as required by California law.

The Labor Enforcement Task Force kicked off an investigation of Green Valley Landscaping after receiving a complaint and individual claims for underpayment of wages to workers. They also received information that the company was potentially misclassifying its employees as independent contractors.

Investigators found that Green Valley was using a workforce of up to 43 employees while reporting less than ten on the payroll. Further investigation showed that the rest were misclassified as independent contractors.

“Misclassification of employees as independent contractors harms legitimate businesses and cheats the hardworking men and women of California who are entitled to a just day’s pay for a hard day’s work,” Su said.

 “This tactic is used by unscrupulous employers to deny workers’ pay for every regular hour worked and overtime. Misclassification is also used to cut costs and to underbid projects, making it extremely difficult for legitimate contractors to compete.”