When building is a booming industry, immigrants are the workers who can be exploited. These workers should be receiving workers’ compensation insurance and fair wages, but many do not. In one story discussed, a young man hurt on the job broke his leg; his employer did not call an ambulance, instead having him transported across state lines for care. Why? The employer was trying to dodge responsibility for the accident.
Federal officials want to reduce the number of accidents taking place, because these individuals, many who are pressured not to report injuries, are being taken advantage of. Companies are often repeat offenders, looking for cheap labor and skipping over protocol.
Many victims of injuries are minors or very young men. Some stories include a 23-year-old roofer who fell and broke his collar bone; his employer told him to drive himself home. He didn’t get medical care for nearly a week and it was over 1.5 years until he received surgery for the break. In another story, around 12 immigrant workers sought out back wages from a New Hampshire drywaller. The drywaller had threatened to refuse to pay them if they quit, and now they have been seeking $150,000 in combined wages.
It’s not just immigrants who are hurt in the construction industry; there are citizens and documented workers who are, too. The problem is that these undocumented workers can be taken advantage of, even though they should be covered with workers’ compensation and be paid at least minimum wage. They are often called independent contractors even though they aren’t, which removes the employer’s liability in the workplace. For those who have been mistreated in this way, an attorney who is familiar with how to obtain compensation for violations of state and federal laws can be a great advocate.
Source: The Boston Globe, “In building boom, immigrant workers face exploitation,” Beth Healy and Megan Woolhouse, Sep. 18, 2016