BOSS WATCH: 5/3 - 5/10
Updated On: May 14, 2024


By JACOB MORRISON | May 13, 2024


Illegal activities of Southern Bosses for the weeks between Friday, May 3 and Friday, May 10


—FLORIDA ENDANGERERS—

For the third time in five years, a federal investigation has found the operator of multiple psychiatric and rehabilitation facilities, has had workers seriously injured or killed in violent patient attacks, including an employee who suffered serious injuries caused by a patient at a Melbourne location.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration began an investigation into the Nov. 7, 2023, incident after Circles of Care Inc. reported the worker’s hospitalization two days after a patient used a metal hole punch to strike a mental health technician at a nurse’s workstation in the head, face, hands and arms. A second employee suffered a hand laceration as they assisted in restraining the patient.

OSHA cited the company with a repeat violation for not providing a workplace free of recognized safety and health hazards — such as workplace violence — at its Sheridan West Unit at 400 E. Sheridan Road. The agency found Circles of Care failed to provide sufficient controls to prevent the escalation of acts of aggression toward professional staff. OSHA also issued a citation for an other-than-serious violation for the company’s failure to report an employee’s work-related hospitalization within 24 hours, as required by law.

Circles of Care Inc. faces $101,397 in proposed OSHA penalties for these violations.  

The incident follows OSHA investigations into two other serious incidents in 2020 at the company’s facility on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Melbourne: the fatal shooting of a counselor by a former Circles of Care patient in December and, on another occasion, an alleged assault.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate the rate of nonfatal assaults on hospital workers at 8.3 per 10,000 workers, significantly higher than the rate of 2.0 per 10,000 workers in all private sector industries.

Based in Melbourne, Circles of Care Inc. operates 10 facilities, including four outpatient locations, providing behavioral health, substance abuse disorder and other healthcare services. The company has a workforce of about 480 employees statewide.

—MISSISSIPPI DEFRAUDER—

From AL(dot)com:

The owner of a Mississippi coast barber school and salon owes the federal government nearly $1 million after a judge found she knowingly defrauded the Department of Veterans Affairs by falsely claiming to teach classes to veterans and grossly inflating the cost for those who enrolled.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides educational assistance benefits for eligible veterans and members of the armed services who enroll in qualified education or training programs. The VA pays benefits for tuition and fees directly to qualifying schools and provides qualifying veteran students a monthly housing allowance and stipend for books and supplies.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Thursday April Tucker Beard, owner of April’s Mane Attraction salon and April’s Mane Attraction Academy, was found to have falsely claimed her academy provided 1,500 hours of class instruction to veterans and charged veterans on the GI Bill tuition of $22,400, while non-GI Bill students were only charged $2,400.

Evidence showed Beard did not regularly teach classes, most of the veterans on the GI Bill never received certificates of completion, and they did not take the state tests required to be a licensed barber in Mississippi.

As a result of the fraudulent claims, Beard received $235,734 in payments for classes and training for veterans which she never provided. Under the federal False Claims Act, the U.S. government is entitled to three times the amount lost as a result of the fraud.

A federal court judge in April ordered Beard and her associated businesses to pay the government $916,392.

“The Post-9/11 GI Bill is an important part of our promise to aid our military veterans and their families for honorably serving our country,” said Todd Gee, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi. “This type of fraud drains funds from vital veterans’ programs and this office remains committed to holding offenders who abuse and exploit these programs accountable.”

—MISSOURI ENDANGERER—

Federal workplace safety inspectors have cited a Missouri roofing contractor for 21 violations for illegally exposing roof workers — five times in seven weeks — at six Wentzville residential worksites to the dangers of fall hazards, the construction industry’s leading cause of serious injuries and death. 

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened its investigations after observing 13 Construction & Pro Services LLC allowing its employees to work on roofs without required protection equipment at separate sites on Oct. 31, Nov. 2 and Dec. 14, 2023.

Specifically, OSHA alleges the company allowed employees to work without protection at heights greater than six feet, did not have a competent person inspect and evaluate job site hazards daily and failed to train workers to recognize hazards or prevent falls. Inspectors also found 13 Construction and Pro Services permitted the unsafe use of ladders, did not ensure workers wore head protection, and did not require the use of eye and face protective equipment when using pneumatic nail guns. 

In all, OSHA cited the company for 26 violations – six willful and 20 serious – and assessed $258,063 in proposed penalties, continuing a history of similar workplace infractions that includes citations for 11 serious and two repeat violations since the company’s 2021 incorporation. The company as contested the current citations issued.  

“Far too often, we find that after OSHA has opened an investigation at one worksite, the same contractor will do nothing to correct similar hazards at its other sites or bother to train and make sure its work crews follow federal safety procedures,” explained OSHA Area Director Bill McDonald in St. Louis. “Had 13 Construction & Pro Services been a responsible employer, they would immediately have reviewed their company’s safety and health procedures to make sure employees at all of its worksites were working safely.”

In 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 1,069 construction workers died on the job. Of those deaths, 395 were related to falls from elevation. 

As part of a continuing effort to prevent fall-related fatalities in construction, the agency, industry and safety groups, and other worker advocates are encouraging construction employers and workers to join the 11th annual National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction, May 6-10, 2024. Partnering with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, National Occupational Research Agenda, Center for Construction Research and Training, American Society of Safety Professionals, National Safety Council, National Construction Safety Executives, OSHA Training Institute Education Centers, state consultation programs and OSHA-approved state plans, the agency invites employers and workers to learn how to conduct a safety stand-down and view a video on fall safety that includes a message from a former construction worker and fall survivor.

—KANSAS POLLUTERS—

On April 15 and 16, 2024, the Kansas and Missouri Departments of Agriculture, in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ordered 17 grocery stores in the Kansas City area to stop the sale and distribution of certain Fabuloso household disinfectants, as well as other disinfection products.

EPA says that the products were illegally imported into the U.S., are noncompliant with federal law, and may represent a danger to consumers.

“EPA and our state partners are committed to protecting customers from potentially dangerous pesticide products, especially in areas already overburdened by pollution,” said EPA Region 7 Administrator Meg McCollister. “This includes taking swift action to prevent ongoing sales of illegal disinfectant products.”

According to EPA, the illegal Fabuloso products contain an active ingredient, glutaraldehyde, that is not authorized in the U.S. as a household disinfectant, because of potential health risks, including throat and lung irritation, asthma and difficulty breathing, dermatitis, nasal irritation, sneezing, wheezing, burning eyes, and conjunctivitis.

Joint state and EPA inspections that resulted in the “stop sale” orders revealed illegal Fabuloso products being offered for sale at multiple grocers in the Kansas City area that serve Hispanic communities.

The unauthorized Fabuloso products had labels primarily written in Spanish. A U.S. version of Fabuloso, with labels in English, contain an approved active ingredient that is authorized for sale in the U.S. Some of the stores that were inspected were selling both the authorized and unauthorized products.

Other violative products identified during the inspections and placed under a stop sale order include:

  • 48 Horas Prevencion Antibacterial Clorox

  • Clorox Ropa

  • Royal Pine

  • Pinol el Original

  • Cloralex El Rendidor

  • Axiom Complete

  • Golden Essence Multi-Purpose Antibacterial Wipes

The stop sale orders issued to the grocery stores require them to remove the illegal products from store shelves and to cease all further sales and/or distribution.

If you have recently purchased a Fabuloso product that makes disinfectant claims, or any of the other listed disinfectants, check the product label to ensure that it is registered with EPA (all EPA-approved disinfectants have unique registration numbers). If the label does not include an EPA registration number and/or indicates it is not approved for sale in the U.S., contact your waste provider for disposal options. Fabuloso products that do not make anti-viral or anti-bacterial disinfectant claims are not regulated and can be used according to their directions.

Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), producers and distributors of pesticide products must register the products with EPA and must include required labeling on the products. It is illegal to sell any pesticide that is not registered and/or does not contain required label contents. Any products claiming to kill viruses and other pathogens are considered “pesticides” under federal law.


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