Insurance company sues Tampa ‘entrepreneur of the year’ for unpaid workers’ comp premiums

in Local Courts by
Lisa Bythewood

A Tampa businesswoman faces trouble with her California insurance company, which claims she owes $627K in workers’ compensation premiums.

VHU Express is a courier company owned by Lisa Dianne Bythewood, 48, and Dr. Craig Bythewood, 49. The couple married in 2008.

VHU grew substantially after it contracted with Amazon.com to deliver packages in South Florida, Boston and other regions.

San Diego-based Insurance Company of the West is a subsidiary of ICW Group, which says it is the “largest group of privately held insurance companies domiciled in California.”

In 2015, the Tampa Bay Business Journal named Lisa Bythewood, as VHU’s CEO and president, one of the finalists in its 2015 Businesswoman of the Year competition. Bythewood was listed in the “Entrepreneur” category and eventually won the “Roar” award. She also published a Christian-living book in 2011 called “Waiting on the Promise.”

Craig Bythewood is a professor of finance and economics, calling himself “The Finance Doctor: Providing your prescription for financial healing.” According to his LinkedIn bio, Bythewood’s LinkedIn bio, he and Lisa operate Vertical Holdings Unlimited, a motivational speaking company. He previously served as financial education director for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Bythewood also won a national dance-off contest in 2007, according to an article (“Dancing Dad No. 1 in people’s hearts”) in the Tampa Bay Times.

In a complaint filed Jan. 10 in the Hillsborough County 13th Judicial Circuit Court, Insurance Company claims VHU Express owes it $627,000 in unpaid workers’ compensation and employers’ liability coverage premiums.

This is not the first time VHU’s employment policies have been targeted with legal action.

In 2016, the Boston Business Journal reported that the Massachusetts attorney general fined VHU more than $80,000 for violating the state’s wage law.

“The investigation determined that from December 2015 to February 2016, a total of 52 employees had not been paid for work performed delivering Amazon packages, according to the AG’s office,” the Journal wrote. “State law requires employers to pay most employees within six days of the end of the pay period during which the wages were earned.”

Also in 2016, the Miami-based firm FairLaw announced they were seeking a punitive class-action lawsuit against VHU in federal court for “allegations of unpaid minimum wages, overtime wages, and violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.” The suit, “Benjamin and Alonso v. VHU Express, Inc., et al.,” represented VHU delivery drivers working in Florida.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.