After more than two decades years of legal wrangling, OSHA has finally collected $412,000 in penalties assessed to a New Jersey construction company for safety violations – plus interest.
The action comes after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in July found Altor Inc. and its president Vasilios Saites in contempt for failing to pay the fines. Even that decision – which followed multiple hearings before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) and the Court of Appeals – was followed by subsequent briefings and negotiations before the case came to a close. On November 26, the Department filed a Satisfaction of Judgment with the Court of Appeals confirming their payment of the judgment.
Fall protection violations
The legal saga began in October 1998, when the Washington Township-based company was cited for numerous safety violations at a construction site in Edgewater, New Jersey, including multiple willful violations of OSHA’s fall protection standards. The company’s longstanding refusal to pay the penalties associated with the violations led to the years-long effort to collect them.
“This successful outcome demonstrates that the U.S. Department of Labor will use all appropriate and available legal tools to ensure that employers do not evade accountability for failing to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor Jeffrey S. Rogoff, in New York. “Our collaborative efforts in this case with Assistant U.S. Attorney Jordan Anger, from the U.S. Attorney’s Office District of New Jersey, help ensure that workplaces are safe and that employers who violate the law do not gain an unfair economic advantage over law-abiding competitors.”
Senior Trial Attorney Amy Tai of the Regional Office of the Solicitor in New York litigated the most recent phase of the case for OSHA. Earlier phases of the contempt proceedings were litigated by Darren Cohen and Micole Allekotte (formerly of the New York Regional Office), and by Ronald Gottlieb of the Occupational Safety and Health Division of the Office of the Solicitor.
“This settlement brings to a close the long overdue fines that Altor Inc. was responsible to pay,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Richard Mendelson, in New York. “These penalties were assessed because Altor Inc. allowed their employees to be exposed to dangerous falls and other hazards. By planning ahead, training employees, and providing the right equipment, employers can protect their workers, prevent falls and other hazards in the workplace, and avoid OSHA fines.”