A joint news release between the Washington Department of Labor & Industries and the Attorney General's Office
TUMWATER — The Attorney General’s Office has charged a Pierce County landscaper with failing to pay workers’ compensation insurance after one of his employees was injured on the job.
Working with the state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) charged Kenneth Ivan Winters, 49, with one count of doing business without workers’ comp insurance and seven counts of making false reports to the Department of Labor & Industries. Each charge is a Class C felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
The Lakewood man pleaded not guilty to the charges Wednesday in Pierce County Superior Court. His trial was set for May 1.
According to court documents, authorities were alerted to the case when an employee filed an on-the-job injury claim while working for Winters’ business, Executive Lawn Care, in October 2012.
The worker told an L&I investigator that Winters, who was on site when the employee was hurt, threatened him and his family if he filed a claim with L&I, charging papers said. The employee said he had worked for Winters from 2002 until the day he was injured.
Winters’ workers’ comp coverage had been revoked eight months earlier for failing to pay premiums. However, the Attorney General’s Office alleges he continued to employ the worker fulltime until the injury.
According to court documents, Winters told an L&I investigator he started the business in 1990, and at one time employed as many as six employees. He said business slowed and his main employee was the worker who became injured, and occasionally the worker’s brother.
As of Jan. 7, 2014, the Attorney General’s Office alleges the employee’s claim has cost L&I more than $67,000 in medical expenses and lost wage payments.
A 2007 study found that an estimated 55,000 employers skipped out on paying $34.5 million in workers’ comp insurance in Washington state in 2006. This forces employers who do pay their required workers’ comp insurance premiums to pay even more.
“Businesses that skip workers’ comp insurance payments gain an unfair advantage over companies that pay their fair share,” said Attorney General Bob Ferguson. “The Dept. of Labor and Industries and the Attorney General’s Office are working together to ensure a fair marketplace for businesses and employees.”
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