what role did I play on a Caltrans contract

6 months ago

I am a sole proprietor with 1 super dump truck and no employees. I was hiried by a trucking company I use to work for as a employee. I was hiried to pick up asphalt from a material supplier and deliver to the project. When I was done delivering the asphalt I left the project. Shortly after I was flagged down and told to go back to the project and get under the grinder to get loaded with grindings. After I was loaded I returned to the material source and unloaded the grindings. I do not have a contract with the trucking company that hired me and no contract with the prime contractor, sub contractor or material supplier. I have sent complaints to Caltrans Labor Compliance Program. I sent complaints back in October of 2018 and the last complaint was sent November 2018. As of June 7, 2019 communication has stoped. I dont know what else to do. I sent complaints to the state and the sent them back stating they do not oversee Caltrans Projects they own. I contacted attorney and there not interesed because its not a class action. I contacted the wage and hour division and the man that I was in contacted with said It was to petty to look into. I do not know what else to do. Thank you for taking the time to read this email

Senior Legal Associate Levelset

I’m very sorry to hear about all of the trouble you’ve been having with this job, it sounds incredibly frustrating. No one should have to scratch and claw just to be paid what they’ve earned.

There are a few potential options that might be worth keeping in mind. It’s also worth mentioning that some potential options for recovery may be off the table due to how much time has passed since the work performed.

Anyway…

For one, going directly after a customer for payment will typically be more fruitful than making an official complaint. By sending a demand letter (potentially, via an attorney) or sending a threat like a Notice of Intent to Make a Bond Claim or a Notice of Intent to Lien, a claimant can show their customer, the project’s GC, and/or the property owner that the claimant is serious about recovering payment. The more time that passes, the less effective a Notice of Intent may be – but it could still get the attention of other project participants and help to get payment talks moving again. As for demand letters – they’re often taken seriously, particularly when a demand for payment is coupled with threats of taking legal action – like a breach of contract claim, or a claim under California’s prompt payment laws.

If the project is ongoing, or if the project has only recently been completed, it might be possible to file a bond claim against the prime contractor’s bond. In a situation where no notice of completion has been filed on the project (which is relatively common), the timeframe for making a bond claim is 75 days after the completion of the project, as a whole. So, if the prime contractor has secured a bond for this project (and, if it’s a large public project, it’s very likely that a bond is present for the project). If the bonding information isn’t known, requesting that information from a customer, the customer’s customer, or the project’s prime contractor should help to clarify that information. For more information on making a bond claim: How to File a California Payment Bond Claim.

Yet another option might be to take the dispute to small claims court. In California, if a payment claim is less than $10,000, a claimant may be able to pursue their payment claim by filing a cause of action in small claims court. Unlike traditional litigation, a lawsuit in small claims court is relatively informal and doesn’t take as much time. Plus, hiring a lawyer isn’t always necessary (though, it’s generally a good idea to at least consult one anyway). For more information on how to file a suit in small claims court in California, this resource will be valuable: California Guide to Small Claims Court. Further, each county has what are called “small claims advisors” who can help you navigate the process of making a claim, and you can find a directory of these advisors here: Small Claims Advisors.

Yet another option might be to make (or threaten to make) a claim under California’s prompt payment laws. The state of California has strict prompt payment laws, and when a construction business fails to pay on time, the business can face serious interest penalties on the unpaid amounts. By simply bringing these laws into play, a construction business might be able to coerce their customer into making payment – because, if prompt payment penalties are applied, that business may be paying a much larger sum. For more information on California’s prompt payment rules, here’s a helpful resource: California Prompt Payment Act: What Contractors Need to Know.

Finally, recovery via traditional litigation – under a claim like breach of contract – could be possible, if a claimant is willing to pursue their claim in court.

As a last note – it’s worth keeping in mind that just because one lawyer turned down a case doesn’t mean every lawyer would. Lawyers often specialize in very specific fields and actions – so, if a case regarding unpaid construction payments is brought to a lawyer who mostly does class action work, that case might get turned away even if it’s got a solid basis. Levelset has a helpful guide explaining this idea in further detail, along with a few tips for finding the right attorney for your situation: How to Find a Construction Attorney [Free Download]. Further, you can find construction attorneys near you and review their credentials at these sites: Avvo.com, FindLaw.com, Lawyers.com, and Justia.com.

Good luck! I hope you get paid what you’ve earned!

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