Brief

NYC contractor convicted of manslaughter in 'landmark' worker safety case

Dive Brief:

  • A New York Supreme Court judge has found New York City general contractor Harco Construction LLC guilty in the 2015 trench collapse death of 22-year-old immigrant construction worker Carlos Moncayo, The New York Times reported.
  • The court found Harco guilty of two felonies  manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide  as well as the misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment. The company faces sentencing in July and a possible fine of $35,000, according to The Wall Street Journal.
  • The court found that Harco allowed Moncayo to work in an unfortified 13-foot-deep trench despite repeated warnings from officials that the lack of protective measures created a dangerous situation. Cases against Moncayo's employer, Sky Materials Corp., and supervisory personnel from Sky and Harco are pending.

Dive Insight:

State safety officials characterized the court's decision as "landmark," and District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said that one of the takeaways from the decision is that "managing a project from afar does not insulate a corporation or general contractor from criminal liability." Harco's attorney said the company will appeal the decision.

Vance's office held out the Moncayo case as an example of "wrongdoing and unsafe practices" on city construction sites when he announced the launch of the Construction Fraud Task Force last summer. At the time, Vance said five New York City agencies would be joining forces to investigate citywide fraud, bribery, extortion, money laundering, bid rigging, larceny and safety violations.

One of the issues rising from cases like this one has been concern regarding the safety of immigrant workers in the city's construction industry. A November New York Times investigation found that worker deaths in New York City had risen over a two-year period because of a lack of sufficient safety measures, but the investigation also found that immigrant worker deaths were disproportionately higher. The Times reported that this trend was largely due to the fact that many immigrants were worried that complaining would jeopardize their jobs and perhaps reveal their undocumented status.

Experts say that language barriers and lack of training also contributed to a 32% increase in Latino immigrant construction worker deaths between 2010 and 2014. The AFL-CIO found that 233 Latino construction workers died in 2014, the most of any industry, along with 217 immigrant workers.

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Filed Under: Legal/Regulation
Top image credit: RBerteig