Painter Awarded Nearly $8K for $150 Job

A painter claimed he wasn't paid for work done at a home and complained to the state labor commission.

For 21 years Kevin Nickel has been self employed as a painter.

He says hiring a day laborer, for one day, could mean the end of his business.

"I feel I was set up. I think this was all a set up," said Nickel, the owner of Pro Painters.

Nickel had a few hours of work left at the home of Jared Plumb, so he subcontracted the job to paint the front door, a handrail and window seals to a man named Facundo Perez.

Plumb says black oil-based paint dripped all over his stone floor and carpeting and white paint streaked from window seals.

He was so angry he handed Perez a $125 check and sent the worker home. Nickel paid Perez $25 up front.

But after hearing Plumb's complaints and receiving a letter calling Perez confrontational and argumentative, Nickel contacted Perez and told him he was going to stop payment on the check.

Perez waited several months, then took the check he couldn't cash, to the California Industrial Relations' Labor Commission, where his only burden of proof was that he was hired, that he worked, and was not paid.

Officials awarded Perez $7,714, for a job he was owed $125 on.

A senior deputy labor commissioner says awards are based on the amount of time worked, not the quality of work.

They gave Nickel 10 days to pay it.

This is the second time in three years Perez filed and won a wage complaint, the commissioner confirmed.

No one came to the door after NBC4 knocked at the address for Perez listed in the complaint.

Nickel says with each appeal, the damage award increases.

He says he's not going to be able to pay it, will be further prosecuted and possibly have to file for bankruptcy, leave the state, and close his doors.

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