BOSS WATCH: 4/26 - 5/3
Updated On: May 13, 2024


By JACOB MORRISON | May 6, 2024


Illegal activities of Southern Bosses for the weeks between Friday, April 26 and Friday, May 3


—SOUTH CAROLINA KILLERS—

A major East Coast ship repair and servicing company’s failure to make safety its #1 priority, a promise made on its website, has led to another employee fatality — the fourth in five years — a U.S. Department of Labor workplace safety inspection has found.   

In November 2023, the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined a 41-year-old worker at Detyens Shipyards Inc. in North Charleston had fallen almost 20 feet from an unguarded side of a small platform inside a gas tank aboard the U.S. Naval Ship 1st Lt. Jack Lummus. At the time, employees were preparing to flush the cargo vessel’s fuel piping servicing and waiting for their co-worker to descend a ladder. 

OSHA inspectors cited Detyens Shipyards Inc. for willfully exposing workers to fall hazards by permitting them to access a platform level without guardrails. The agency also identified two serious violations for not providing adequate lighting to work safely in the area and for not making certain workers wear hard hats as others worked above them with hoses, knives, flashlights and other tools. Inspectors also found the employer allowed workers to use a damaged extension cord, an other-than-serious violation. The agency has proposed $190,130 in penalties following the November inspection.

Since 2019, four employees have died on the job at the ship repair and service company, including two others involved in fatal falls in 2020 and 2022. Since 2014, OSHA has identified 33 serious violations in 18 inspections.

—FLORIDA KILLERS—

A Georgia construction contractor’s failure to enforce safety regulations at an Arcadia worksite led to a 31-year-old steel erector suffering fatal fall injuries, an incident caused by the same workplace safety violations for which federal inspectors cited the employer just 10 months earlier.

A U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation determined a three-person crew employed by Landmark Erecting Inc. of Hahira was installing metal roofing sheets on a building in November 2023, when one worker fell 12 feet onto a concrete slab below and suffered traumatic head injuries. 

OSHA cited the employer for a repeat violation for again not ensuring a worker used fall protection as they walked along a roof frame. The agency cited the company for a similar violation at a Tallahassee workplace in January 2023. 

The agency also cited the employer with a serious violation for failing to ensure the availability of accessible medical treatment for the injured employee and an other-than-serious violation for not reporting a work-related fatality within 8 hours, as the law requires. OSHA proposed $46,550 in penalties to address the violations, an amount set by federal statute.

In 2022, 307 Florida workers in all industries died due to workplace injuries. Of them, falls, slips and trips were the cause of 78 fatalities, up from 69 in 2021.

—TEXAS DISCRIMINATORS—

Liberty Energy, Inc. doing business as Liberty Oilfield Services, LLC, will pay $265,000 to settle a race and national origin discrimination lawsuit brought on behalf of three mechanics by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to the lawsuit, a Black field mechanic and two Hispanic co-workers at Liberty Energy’s Odessa, Texas location were subjected to a hostile environment and referred to in derogatory terms, including use of the N-word and other slurs such as “beaner” and “wetback.” The employees alleged that they made reports to supervisors, management, and human resources about the discriminatory treatment, but no effective corrective or remedial action was taken by the company.

The EEOC’s suit charged that after making his report, the Black mechanic was forced by management to perform undesirable work tasks and was isolated by his peers. With no meaningful action by company management to change the workplace atmosphere and the discriminatory assignments that followed his complaint, he was ultimately left no alternative but to resign.

The alleged conduct violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race and national origin. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.

Under the two-year consent decree resolving the suit, in addition to monetary relief for the employees, Liberty Energy will adopt and distribute a policy for all human resources and management personnel to effectively respond to reports to discrimination; post a notice in the workplace informing employees of the settlement; adopt and develop a 1-800 hotline for reporting acts of discrimination and/or harassment; and provide specialized training to employees on the federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination, including Title VII.

—MINER DANGERS—

The U.S. Department of Labor announced today that its Mine Safety and Health Administration completed impact inspections at 14 mines in 11 states in March 2024, issuing 199 violations and one safeguard.

Since 2023, MSHA’s impact inspections have identified 3,333 violations, including 959 significant and substantial and 63 unwarrantable failure findings. An S&S violation is one that could contribute in a significant and substantial way to the cause and effect of a safety or health hazard. Violations designated as unwarrantable failures occur when an inspector finds aggravated conduct that constitutes more than ordinary negligence.

The agency conducts impact inspections at mines that merit increased agency attention and enforcement due to poor compliance history; previous accidents, injuries, and illnesses; and other compliance concerns. Of the 199 violations MSHA identified in March 2024, 74 were evaluated as S&S and four had an unwarrantable failure finding. The agency completed these inspections at mines in Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia. 

“The results of March’s impact inspections uncovered several serious violations, including putting miners at risk of fire and explosion hazards and impeding miners’ ability to escape emergency situations,” said Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Chris Williamson. 

The Crimson Oak Grove Mine — an underground coal mine in Jefferson County, Alabama — was selected for an impact inspection after the mine experienced an elevated citation rate during the previous quarter along with numerous hazard complaints. 

Inspectors arrived at the Oak Grove mine on March 20, 2024, and secured the phone systems on the surface that provide communications to the underground mining sections. This stops miners on the surface from calling miners underground to warn them of MSHA’s presence. One inspector stayed on the surface to address safety hazards, another traveled the belt conveyors, and three inspectors and one supervisor traveled underground to both continuous mining machine sections. 

The inspection resulted in a total of 39 citations and one order, 18 of which were designated as S&S violations. Specifically, MSHA inspectors found the following conditions existed at the mine:

  • On the surface, inspectors observed numerous conditions and issued 16 violations with seven S&S findings. These conditions include equipment in unsafe operating condition and personal protective equipment not being worn and exposing miners to safety hazards. 

  • Underground, inspectors found that the mine was not following the approved roof control plan, exposing miners to the threat of falling rock from the mine’s roof and ribs (side), and loose unsupported pots in the roof, also known as kettle bottoms. MSHA remains vigilant in reminding operators of the importance of following roof control plans, conducting thorough pre-shift and on-shift examinations, as well being alert for changing conditions on the mine site. 

  • Other conditions found by inspectors at the mine include poor maintenance of an escapeway and a lifeline used for safe passage in the event of an emergency, accumulations of combustible materials, damaged ventilation stoppings, permissibility issues on equipment, a damaged guard, not maintaining the fire suppression system on a piece of diesel equipment, electrical equipment defects and inadequate examinations.

—DISHONORABLE MENTIONS—

  • Sysco West Florida has entered into a conciliation agreement with the Department of Labor and will pay $133,625 in back wages and interest to resolve alleged hiring discrimination at its Palmetto, FL facility against 95 female applicants.

  • Lubin Logistics Company, which operates as a package delivery contractor for the international shipping brand FedEx, violated federal law when it fired an employee in Atlanta, GA because of his disability, having lupus, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit recently filed.

  • In Louisiana, the Department of Labor has determined that 5 employers used improper employment practices commonly found in the home care industry such as worker misclassification and paying straight time for all house worked to steal from 219 people. The agency recovered $422k in back wages and damages from Our Grace LLC, Quality Community Homes LLC, We Care Sitting Services LLC, Assisted Hands LLC, and Joy PCA Services LLC.

  • Chipotle will pay $50,000 to a former crew member at its Prattville, Alabama restaurant location and will provide other relief to resolve a sexual harassment lawsuit that alleged daily sexual advances and offensive conduct from management filed by the EEOC, the federal agency announced today

  • The USDOL has recovered $52,497 in back wages for 134 workers with disabilities after Advo Companies -an Amarillo, TX nonprofit which provides rehabilitation and vocational training services to adults with developmental and physical disabilities – failed to pay them the required subminimum wage rate.

  • Barrett Distribution Centers, LLC will pay $60,000 and furnish other relief to settle an EEOC lawsuit for unlawful retaliation against a Memphis, TN employee who spoke out about discrimination, the federal agency announced today.

  • USDOL investigators found Alumatech Furniture Manufacturing - a Florida furniture manufacturer - did not pay eight employees overtime rates as required for hours over 40 in a workweek. The agency recovered $92,000 in stolen wages and damages and assessed $8,000 for the company’s repeat violations.

  • Reliable Maintenance Solutions, Inc., which provides quarry services for mine sites in Georgia, violated federal law when it refused to hire an applicant in Atlanta, GA because of his disability, being an amputee, the EEOC charged in a lawsuit recently filed.

  • Covenant Woods, a retirement community in Columbus, Georgia, will pay $78,000 to settle an age and disability discrimination lawsuit alleging the company fired an employee due to their age after a brief hospitalization.


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