L&I gets serious about its premiums

Not paying workers' compensation premiums could be costly for construction companies and contractors.

This week the state Department of Labor & Industries began serving stop work orders to construction businesses caught without a current L&I workers' compensation account.

Stop work orders require an employer to immediately stop all work until the business is in compliance with state requirements.

Issuing the stop orders to employers who don't pay their workers' comp premiums was a recommendation of the Underground Economy Task Force and passed by the 2009 Legislature.

L&I officials said a business can ask for a 10-day reconsideration period but it must post a bond of $5,000 or pay $1,000 per worker, whichever is greater.

The stop work orders can apply to a specific worksite or all that employer's worksites. Failing to comply with the order carries a penalty of $1,000 a day, said an L&I news release.

"The Stop Work Order gives us a powerful tool to stop employers who are operating illegally," Carl Hammersburg, manager of L&I's Fraud Prevention and Compliance Program, said in the release. "We are trying to level the playing field for those honest contractors out there who complain about losing bids to shady contractors dodging workers' comp premiums."

L&I's fraud website,, includes an online form for reporting fraud. Anyone who suspects fraud should call L&I's hotline at 888-811-5974.