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Dept. of Labor Fines and Actions

Labor violations from the DOL.

Rhode Island Employer Willfully Violated FLSA
The Wage and Hour Division has revoked authorization allowing Training Thru Placement, Inc., based in Providence, R.I., to pay less than the current federal minimum wage to its workers, after an investigation found willful violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. This action was part of a new strategic enforcement effort to remedy labor violations and protect workers with disabilities. The agency found that TTP, a nonprofit educational and vocational training center, failed to determine the appropriate sub-minimum wage to be paid to each worker as allowed under Section 14(c) of the FLSA. The company also falsified documents in order to mislead investigators. In an effort to comprehensively redress violations under all applicable laws, the agency referred the matter to the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, which reached an interim settlement agreement with the state of Rhode Island and the city of Providence. That agreement will resolve violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act for approximately 200 Rhode Islanders.
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Help for Laid-Off Grocery Chain Workers in Minnesota
The department awarded a National Emergency Grant totaling $838,390 to assist about 200 workers affected by layoffs at the headquarter offices of SUPERVALU located in Eden Prairie and Stillwater, Minn. The grant was awarded to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and will be operated by HIRED. “Former workers of SUPERVALU face a challenge in finding jobs comparable to the ones they lost,” said acting Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training Gerri Fiala. “The Labor Department’s grant will help these individuals to update current job skills or train for a new occupation in expanding sectors of the state’s economy.”
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Suits Filed to Restore $4.9 Million in Pension Funds
The department has filed complaints on behalf of pension plans at Iowa-based foundry Fairfield Casting LLC and Michigan-based manufacturer Fourslides Inc. The suits, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, alleged improper use of pension funds and seek to restore $4.9 million to the defined benefit plans. The suits followed an investigation by the Employee Benefits Security Administration, which found violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, including use of plan assets for the purchase and lease of company property, purchase of customer notes from affiliated companies, transfer of assets in favor of a party-in-interest, payment of excessive fees to services providers, payment of fees on behalf of the companies, and failure to provide an updated summary plan description to participants.
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Department Seeks to Recover Wages for Drywall Workers
The department has filed a lawsuit against Washington-based Summit Drywall Inc. and its owner Thomas Kauzlarich to recover unpaid overtime back wages and damages for more than 250 current and former workers. The suit resulted from an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division in Seattle that found the employer failed to pay overtime at time and one-half their regular rates of pay for all hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek, as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act. Employees working as drywall hangers and tapers were paid on a piece-rate basis and not compensated for all hours worked, such as time spent traveling and transporting equipment to the job site. Summit Drywall provides drywall installation services for residential, commercial and multifamily construction projects throughout the state.
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More Than $225,000 in Retirement Assets Returned to Workers
A federal court in Milwaukee has ordered Michael J. Losik to restore $225,274 to the Losik Engineering Design Group Ltd. defined benefit retirement plan. Losik, the company’s president and owner, violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by imprudently investing plan assets in a hedge fund, making an improper distribution to his own account, and failing to properly administer the plan. The judgment resolves a lawsuit filed by the department following an investigation by the Employee Benefits Security Administration. Losik is barred from serving as a fiduciary or service provider to any employee benefit plan subject to ERISA in the future.
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New York Manufacturer Faces Additional Fines
A Chester, N.Y., architectural hardware manufacturer faces $117,920 in additional fines for failing to correct hazards previously cited during an inspection by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. S.A. Baxter LLC did not correct specific respiratory protection, fire extinguisher training, electrical and exit hazards, while hazard communication and other respiratory protection deficiencies were allowed to recur. “The sizable fines proposed reflect both the severity of these hazards as well as this employer’s failure to take necessary corrective action,” said Kim Castillon, OSHA’s area director in Albany.
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Texas Employer Pays More Than $176,000 in Back Wages
Ratech Construction Inc. in Rhome, Texas, paid $176,204 in back wages to 17 maintenance employees following an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division. The investigation found the employees were misclassified as independent contractors and, consequently, denied overtime compensation in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Ratech is a general contractor that services heavy industrial and commercial sector construction projects throughout Texas. The company provided maintenance employees to Hanson Aggregates LLC, a mining operation in Bridgeport.
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Three New York Contractors Cited for Electrocution Hazards
A trio of New York contractors faces a total of $465,410 in federal fines for exposing employees to electrocution hazards at a Long Island work site. Inspectors from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found workers performing concrete work and crane operations too close to 13,200-volt overhead power lines. Cited for willful violations were Vordonia Contracting and Supplies Corp./Alma Realty Corp. of Long Island City; Masonry Services Inc., doing business as MSI, of Brooklyn; and North Eastern Precast LLC, of Fultonville. “OSHA standards prohibit working in close proximity to live power lines. These employers allowed workers to be exposed to electrocution hazards despite repeated cease and desist notices from the Long Island Power Authority,” said Anthony Ciuffo, OSHA’s Long Island area director. “Their workers should never have been placed in harm’s way. They were fortunate not to be electrocuted.”
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Former Postal Union Official in Georgia Pleads Guilty
Joseph Allen, former secretary-treasurer of National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 588 in Athens, Ga., recently pleaded guilty in federal court to filing a false labor organization annual report. Allen was sentenced to serve one year in prison and one year of probation, and pay $50,000 in restitution to Branch 588. In November 2012, Allen was indicted on federal charges after an investigation determined he took out a bank loan in the union’s name without authorization of the executive board or membership. The plea agreement and sentencing follow a joint investigation by the department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General.
Railroad Faulted for Reprimanding Whistle-blower
A whistle-blower investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that Metro North Commuter Railroad Co. violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act when it reprimanded an employee who reported a workplace injury. OSHA’s investigation found that the railroad had not disciplined other employees commonly committing the same violation, making it appear that Metro North singled out this employee for discipline. The railroad, which provides commuter rail service to Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, has been ordered to pay more than $6,800 in punitive damages and attorney’s fees and take other corrective action.
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Ohio Restaurant Ran Illegal Tip Pool
Sanchez Corp., which operates as Rancho Fiesta Restaurant in Mansfield, Ohio, has agreed to pay $51,949 in back wages to 18 employees following an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division. The investigation disclosed violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage, overtime pay and record-keeping provisions. The company also was assessed $2,772 in civil penalties for repeat violations of the FLSA. Investigators found that Rancho Fiesta had an illegal tip pool where management deducted 3 percent of a waiter’s gross sales from the waiter’s tips and used it to pay non-tipped employees.
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Violent Encounter, Death Underscore Importance of Safety Efforts
Integra Health Management of Owings Mills, Md, has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with two violations following an incident last December when a patient fatally stabbed a service coordinator in front of the patient’s Dade City, Fla., home. The employee was meeting the patient for a required face-to-face hospitalization risk assessment. OSHA issued the company a serious safety violation for exposing employees to incidents of violent behavior by a patient that resulted in death and one other-than-serious violation for the employer’s failure to report a workplace fatality. The employee, who had previously raised concerns about the patient, was stabbed multiple times after attempting to flee.
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Investigation Finds Wage Violations at Concrete Company
Giorgi Concrete, a Detroit-based commercial cement company, has paid $106,334 in back wages to 38 workers following an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division. The investigation found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime and record-keeping provisions. The company, which was assessed an additional $5,984 in penalties for repeat violations of the FLSA, signed a settlement agreement with the department agreeing to specific measures to ensure future compliance with the law.
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Focus on Crane Safety in Northwest
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is launching a program to curb fatalities and injuries related to crane operations, especially in the maritime and construction industries. Over the past five years, OSHA investigated 13 fatal accidents involving cranes in areas where the federal agency has jurisdiction in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska. To help improve compliance and prevent injuries and deaths, compliance officers will inspect ports, construction sites and other locations where cranes are in use, and will conduct outreach, training, on-site consultation and collaboration with employers and stakeholders.
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Violations Found After Electrocution at Missouri Company
Davis Tool & Die has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 17 safety violations after a maintenance worker was electrocuted on March 6 at the Fenton, Mo., facility. One repeat safety violation involved failing to have point of operation guards on three milling machines. The same violation was cited in January 2012 at Poplar Bluff Tool & Die, which is under the same ownership. Among the 16 serious violations cited was lack of personal protective equipment. OSHA has proposed penalties of $77,000.
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Trenching Hazards Lead to Fines
VM Construction Inc., based in Miami, and Concrete Systems Inc., based in Stirling, N.J., were cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for willful and repeat trenching hazards found at a Kearny, N.J., work site. OSHA’s November 2012 investigation was prompted by an imminent danger complaint alleging employees were working in an unprotected 8-foot-deep excavation. One willful violation, carrying a $28,000 penalty, was cited against VM Construction Inc. for those workers operating in an unprotected excavation. Concrete Systems Inc., a concrete and masonry contractor, faces $100,100 in penalties for two repeat violations involving workers operating in an unprotected excavation and entering an excavation that was not inspected beforehand by a competent person.
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Connecticut Manufacturer Ignored Power Press, Electrical Hazards
Brake system manufacturer Nucap U.S. Inc. has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 17 alleged serious violations of workplace safety and health standards at its Watertown, Conn., plant. Inspectors found several hazardous conditions involving mechanical power presses, which exposed workers to potential crushing and amputation injuries from the unintended operation of a press or from entering a press’s point of operation. Other hazards involved possible electrocution, hearing loss, exposure to blood and body fluids and exposure to hazardous chemicals. The company faces $55,505 in fines.
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Wisconsin Cheese Factory Cited in Worker Amputation
A Gilman, Wis., cheese factory was cited for 10 safety violations and fined $126,700 after a worker had two fingers amputated by an unguarded cheese packing and labeling machine. The accident, which occurred last December at Gilman Cheese Corp., prompted an inspection. During its investigation, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that another worker suffered a similar amputation in January 2012. The company was cited for two willful violations involving failure to develop and train workers on machine-specific lockout procedures to prevent unexpected start-up and lockout machinery during servicing and maintenance, and failing to provide adequate machine guarding.
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Hazards Found at Texas Pressure Pumping Company
PumpCo Energy Services Inc., an oil and gas industry pressure pumping services company, was cited by the Occupational Safety and health Administration with 14 safety and health workplace violations. OSHA inspectors found that workers were exposed to a number of hazards at the company’s maintenance facility in Valley View, Texas. Serious safety violations include failing to take effective measures to prevent employee entry into permit confined spaces; failing to ensure proper personal protective equipment is worn at all times to prevent eye and overhead injuries, and failing to provide permit confined space training, forklift training and daily inspections on overhead cranes. Penalties of $72,900 have been proposed.
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(Source: 6/13/13 DOL Newsletter)

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