Employee Misclassification and Wage Theft Bring Felony Charges Against Employer

Previously, I have written several articles about the problems for workers and government caused by the unethical and illegal business practices of some companies who misclassify employees to gain an unfair advantage over their competition. Frequently, employers who follow these practices also steal from there employees in the form of wage theft. Last week, Construction Citizen reported on a Connecticut case where John Dosky, the owner of American Building Group, LLC, was charged with felony wage theft after a workplace accident led to the death of one of his workers.

The death occurred in October after 36-year-old Javiar Salinas fell more than 50 feet at the Chelsea Piers sports complex construction site in Stamford. An article in The Danbury News-Times reported that Salinas’ estate is filing suit against each of his employers, including the developers (Chelsea Piers Connecticut LLC and Stamford Exit 9 LLC), contractor (Merritt Contractors Inc), subcontractor (AP Construction), and the sub-sub contractor (Dosky’s company, American Building LLC), because Salinas was not wearing a safety harness when he climbed to the roof that day, allowing a gust of wind to knock him off of the roof.

Editorial note: Notice the company Salinas actually worked for, American Building, LLC, does not have any company information available on the web. This is a common practice where these subs are set up and then disappear later when no longer needed.

Chelsea Piers Sports Complex Construction Site

More recent information about this case posted at NewsTimes.com states Stamford police Capt. Richard Conklin said on Wednesday that Salinas did wear a harness, but it was not strapped or secured to anything that would have kept him from falling.

Addressing the fatal construction site accident for the first time since the incident, Dosky said after his arraignment on Wednesday that he could not explain how Salinas fell. No one witnessed him fall, he said. "It's an accident," he said. "Nothing more than an accident."

What was not an accident was Dosky's failure to properly classify his workers as employees and pay appropriate taxes on these jobs. Nor was it an accident that he failed to pay the $8,000 in wages to Salinas.

When asked about this Dosky told NewsTimes.com, "I'm working to take care of everything and pay any wages," Dosky said. "I wanted to pay the wages two weeks ago but I needed to come here first."

According to an arrest affidavit, a labor department investigator found American Building Group owed Salinas about $450 in wages before his death on Oct. 25. One of his brothers was owned $1,730 in wages, and another brother was paid $1,280 for the entire month of October and the last week of September, leaving $5,750 in unpaid wages.

These kinds of stories happen in Houston and across the nation every month. Companies seeking to make a quick buck and gain an unfair advantage over reputable companies cheat the system. It should be no surprise that when they cheat others, they will also cheat their employees.

During the last session of the Texas Legislature, bills were introduced to put some teeth behind Texas employment laws. Unfortunately, as I previously reported, powerful lobbies from the Texas Association of Business, the National Federation of Independent Business, and the Independent Electrical Contractors stopped the bill dead in its tracks.

We must and can do better.

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