2004 Florida Statutes
Department powers to enforce employer compliance with coverage requirements.
(1) The Legislature finds that the failure of an employer to comply with the workers' compensation coverage requirements under this chapter poses an immediate danger to public health, safety, and welfare.
(2) For the purposes of this section, "securing the payment of workers' compensation" means obtaining coverage that meets the requirements of this chapter and the Florida Insurance Code. However, if at any time an employer materially understates or conceals payroll, materially misrepresents or conceals employee duties so as to avoid proper classification for premium calculations, or materially misrepresents or conceals information pertinent to the computation and application of an experience rating modification factor, such employer shall be deemed to have failed to secure payment of workers' compensation and shall be subject to the sanctions set forth in this section. A stop-work order issued because an employer is deemed to have failed to secure the payment of workers' compensation required under this chapter because the employer has materially understated or concealed payroll, materially misrepresented or concealed employee duties so as to avoid proper classification for premium calculations, or materially misrepresented or concealed information pertinent to the computation and application of an experience rating modification factor shall have no effect upon an employer's or carrier's duty to provide benefits under this chapter or upon any of the employer's or carrier's rights and defenses under this chapter, including exclusive remedy.
(3) The department shall enforce workers' compensation coverage requirements, including the requirement that the employer secure the payment of workers' compensation, and the requirement that the employer provide the carrier with information to accurately determine payroll and correctly assign classification codes. In addition to any other powers under this chapter, the department shall have the power to:
(a) Conduct investigations for the purpose of ensuring employer compliance.
(b) Enter and inspect any place of business at any reasonable time for the purpose of investigating employer compliance.
(c) Examine and copy business records.
(d) Administer oaths and affirmations.
(e) Certify to official acts.
(f) Issue and serve subpoenas for attendance of witnesses or production of business records, books, papers, correspondence, memoranda, and other records.
(g) Issue stop-work orders, penalty assessment orders, and any other orders necessary for the administration of this section.
(h) Enforce the terms of a stop-work order.
(i) Levy and pursue actions to recover penalties.
(j) Seek injunctions and other appropriate relief.
(4) The department shall designate representatives who may serve subpoenas and other process of the department issued under this section.
(5) The department shall specify by rule the business records that employers must maintain and produce to comply with this section.
(6) If a person has refused to obey a subpoena to appear before the department or its authorized representative or produce evidence requested by the department or to give testimony about the matter that is under investigation, a court has jurisdiction to issue an order requiring compliance with the subpoena if the court has jurisdiction in the geographical area where the inquiry is being carried on or in the area where the person who has refused the subpoena is found, resides, or transacts business. Failure to obey such a court order may be punished by the court as contempt, either civilly or criminally. Costs, including reasonable attorney's fees, incurred by the department to obtain an order granting, in whole or in part, a petition to enforce a subpoena or a subpoena duces tecum shall be taxed against the subpoenaed party.
(7)(a) Whenever the department determines that an employer who is required to secure the payment to his or her employees of the compensation provided for by this chapter has failed to secure the payment of workers' compensation required by this chapter or to produce the required business records under subsection (5) within 5 business days after receipt of the written request of the department, such failure shall be deemed an immediate serious danger to public health, safety, or welfare sufficient to justify service by the department of a stop-work order on the employer, requiring the cessation of all business operations. If the department makes such a determination, the department shall issue a stop-work order within 72 hours. The order shall take effect when served upon the employer or, for a particular employer worksite, when served at that worksite. In addition to serving a stop-work order at a particular worksite which shall be effective immediately, the department shall immediately proceed with service upon the employer which shall be effective upon all employer worksites in the state for which the employer is not in compliance. A stop-work order may be served with regard to an employer's worksite by posting a copy of the stop-work order in a conspicuous location at the worksite. The order shall remain in effect until the department issues an order releasing the stop-work order upon a finding that the employer has come into compliance with the coverage requirements of this chapter and has paid any penalty assessed under this section. The department may issue an order of conditional release from a stop-work order to an employer upon a finding that the employer has complied with coverage requirements of this chapter and has agreed to remit periodic payments of the penalty pursuant to a payment agreement schedule with the department. If an order of conditional release is issued, failure by the employer to meet any term or condition of such penalty payment agreement shall result in the immediate reinstatement of the stop-work order and the entire unpaid balance of the penalty shall become immediately due. The department may require an employer who is found to have failed to comply with the coverage requirements of s. 440.38 to file with the department, as a condition of release from a stop-work order, periodic reports for a probationary period that shall not exceed 2 years that demonstrate the employer's continued compliance with this chapter. The department shall by rule specify the reports required and the time for filing under this subsection.
(b) Stop-work orders and penalty assessment orders issued under this section against a corporation, partnership, or sole proprietorship shall be in effect against any successor corporation or business entity that has one or more of the same principals or officers as the corporation or partnership against which the stop-work order was issued and are engaged in the same or equivalent trade or activity.
(c) The department shall assess a penalty of $1,000 per day against an employer for each day that the employer conducts business operations that are in violation of a stop-work order.
(d)1. In addition to any penalty, stop-work order, or injunction, the department shall assess against any employer who has failed to secure the payment of compensation as required by this chapter a penalty equal to 1.5 times the amount the employer would have paid in premium when applying approved manual rates to the employer's payroll during periods for which it failed to secure the payment of workers' compensation required by this chapter within the preceding 3-year period or $1,000, whichever is greater.
2. Any subsequent violation within 5 years after the most recent violation shall, in addition to the penalties set forth in this subsection, be deemed a knowing act within the meaning of s. 440.105
(e) When an employer fails to provide business records sufficient to enable the department to determine the employer's payroll for the period requested for the calculation of the penalty provided in paragraph (d), for penalty calculation purposes, the imputed weekly payroll for each employee, corporate officer, sole proprietor, or partner shall be the statewide average weekly wage as defined in s. 440.12(2) multiplied by 1.5.
(f) In addition to any other penalties provided for in this chapter, the department may assess against the employer a penalty of $5,000 for each employee of that employer who the employer represents to the department or carrier as an independent contractor but who is determined by the department not to be an independent contractor as defined in s. 440.02
(8) In addition to the issuance of a stop-work order under subsection (7), the department may file a complaint in the circuit court in and for Leon County to enjoin any employer who has failed to secure the payment of workers' compensation required by this chapter from employing individuals and from conducting business until the employer presents evidence satisfactory to the department of having secured the payment of workers' compensation required by this chapter and pays a civil penalty assessed by the department under this section.
(9) The department shall adopt rules to administer this section.
(10) The department may bring an action in circuit court to recover penalties assessed under this section, including any interest owed to the department pursuant to this section. In any action brought by the department pursuant to this section in which it prevails, the circuit court shall award costs, including the reasonable costs of investigation and a reasonable attorney's fee.
(11) Any judgment obtained by the department and any penalty due pursuant to the service of a stop-work order or otherwise due under this section shall, until collected, constitute a lien upon the entire interest of the employer, legal or equitable, in any property, real or personal, tangible or intangible; however, such lien is subordinate to claims for unpaid wages and any prior recorded liens, and a lien created by this section is not valid against any person who, subsequent to such lien and in good faith and for value, purchases real or personal property from such employer or becomes the mortgagee on real or personal property of such employer, or against a subsequent attaching creditor, unless, with respect to real estate of the employer, a notice of the lien is recorded in the public records of the county where the real estate is located, and with respect to personal property of the employer, the notice is recorded with the Secretary of State.
(12) Any law enforcement agency in the state may, at the request of the department, render any assistance necessary to carry out the provisions of this section, including, but not limited to, preventing any employee or other person from remaining at a place of employment or job site after a stop-work order or injunction has taken effect.
(13) Agency action by the department under this section, if contested, must be contested as provided in chapter 120. All penalties assessed by the department must be paid into the Workers' Compensation Administration Trust Fund.
(14) If the department finds that an employer who is certified or registered under part I or part II of chapter 489 and who is required to secure the payment of workers' compensation under this chapter to his or her employees has failed to do so, the department shall immediately notify the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
History.--s. 15, ch. 93-415; s. 107, ch. 97-103; s. 8, ch. 98-174; s. 21, ch. 2002-194; s. 8, ch. 2002-236; s. 476, ch. 2003-261; s. 13, ch. 2003-412; s. 2, ch. 2004-370; s. 148, ch. 2004-390.