San Francisco to launch workers’ compensation hotline in Tagalog

SAN FRANCISCO, California—San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon will launch a workers’ compensation hotline in Tagalog and other languages in a bid to curb labor abuses.

Currently, the hotline, formed in response to pending cases involving workers’ compensation abuse, is available in English, Cantonese and Spanish. Aside from Tagalog, Mandarin will also be added later.

The hotline will provide employees with an anonymous way to report workers’ compensation abuses that could include uninsured employers, applicant fraud, claim denial fraud, or premium fraud.

“Under California State Law, employers are required to provide workers compensation benefits to their employees regardless of their citizenship status. Failure to provide workers’ compensation insurance is a crime, “said Gascon.

In January, Frances Ann Doherty, 51, of Millbrae was charged with 57 felony counts related to wage theft, firing false instruments, offering fraudulent documents, and workers’ compensation insurance fraud. In order to win dozens of painting contracts with the city, the defendant promised to pay her workers San Francisco’s prevailing wage and job after job, allegedly submitted false documentation showing that she had done so.

In the course of three years, it is alleged that Doherty underpaid her employees and pocketed over $600,000 that the city thought it was paying in wages and defrauded her workers’ compensation insurance carriers out of over $100,00 in insurance premiums.

Last December, in another case, Danny Ho, was sentenced to one year in county jail for the theft of labor from workers and misappropriation of money aid to him by San Francisco homeowners for remodeling jobs. Ho was convicted of felony counts for grand theft of labor, fraudulently posing as a licensed contractor, and misappropriation of construction funds.

Ho was also convicted of misdemeanor counts of contracting without a license, demanding an excessive down payment, and failing to secure workers’ compensation insurance.  Ho was ordered to pay $81,778.50 in restitution to the workers and to the homeowners whom he had defrauded.

In another case, also last December, a judge ruled that there was sufficient evidence to hold Digital Press International and its owner and CEO, Sanjay Sakhuja, age 53, and pressroom manager, Alice Yeung, 51, to answer on criminal charges filed in connection with the death of a pregnant worker who was crushed by a machine at her job on January 29, 2008. The defendants were charged with felony involuntary manslaughter (Penal Code section 192b) and felony violation of the Labor Code (Labor Code section 6425a), a willful violation of a CAL/OSHA regulation causing death or permanent injury.

District Attorney Gascon has issued a plea to the public to “please help San Francisco become a better place for workers by reporting potential workers’ compensation abuses to the District Attorney’s office.” He emphasized that all tips and reports will remain anonymous.

At the press briefing, Gascon added that, although it was originally conceived as a hotline to encourage employees to report workers’ compensation fraud, the hotline will accept reports of other forms of fraud.

To report workers’ compensation fraud or any other kind of suspected fraud, the number to call is (415) 553-9535.

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