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Feb. 1, 2018 by Katie Tracy

County Prosecutor in Washington State Indicts Construction Company Owner for Trench Collapse Death

On the morning of January 26, 2016, Seattle police were called to a construction site where a worker, Harold Felton, was trapped in a collapsed trench. By the time officers arrived, the rescue operation had turned into a recovery; Felton, 36, had died at the scene. 

Felton was working as part of a two-man team employed by Alki Construction to replace a sewer line. According to the police report, 10 minutes before the trench collapsed, the man working alongside Felton had moved to another area about 40 feet away to work on another part of the pipe. He heard a worrisome clunk that he thought sounded like tools hitting the pipe, so he went to check on Felton. Unable to find him, he immediately started digging and made a call to his employer and Alki's owner, Phillip Numrich, who had left the worksite to buy lunch. Numrich instructed him to call the police, then headed back to the worksite, where he and the worker continued to dig in an attempt to rescue Felton until first responders arrived at the scene and recovered Felton's body.   

In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, according to the police report, Numrich suggested to police …

Oct. 5, 2016 by Katie Tracy
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When it comes to worker health and safety, preventing injuries and illnesses is the number one goal. It was for this very purpose that Congress enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) and tasked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with setting and enforcing strong workplace standards. But when preventative measures fail and workers are harmed, agency enforcement actions against the employer (while necessary) don't provide legal redress to workers or their families for the damages they've incurred. Instead, recovering damages often necessitates they hire a private attorney to help them navigate this complex area of the law. 

The attorneys who take these cases play a critical role in workers' rights advocacy, and their experience offers a unique perspective that can help advocates better understand the challenges workers face and opportunities for overcoming them. Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with one such …

Dec. 22, 2015 by Katie Tracy
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As the year draws to a close and the New Year approaches, people all around the world will be contemplating what they can resolve to do better in 2016. This year, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) seem to be celebrating the tradition as well. In a move akin to a “New Year’s Resolution” to do better by workers, the two agencies have just announced that they will be expanding their “worker endangerment initiative” to bolster criminal prosecutions against employers responsible for endangering workers’ health and safety.

The new initiative is an encouraging step toward punishing employers who make decisions that put profits over people and toward deterring others from violating federal labor laws. But the initiative—while it’s a beneficial supplement to the weak criminal penalties applicable to many labor violations—is also limited in scope …

Aug. 5, 2015 by Katie Tracy
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Raul Zapata Mercado, a husband and father of three, was killed on January 28, 2012 when a 12-foot trench collapsed on him while he was working at a U.S. Sino Investments Inc. construction site in Milpitas, California.

More than three years after the fatal collapse, in May 2015, the construction company owner, Richard Liu, and the project manager, Dan Luo, were convicted of involuntary manslaughter—in other words, even though they didn’t act maliciously to kill Mercado, they are responsible for unintentionally killing him because their complete disregard for worker safety was so negligent that it rose to the level of a criminal act. Luo was also convicted of three counts of felony labor code violations for violating a safety order and causing a workers death. And on Friday, July 31, both men were sentenced to two years in prison as punishment for committing involuntary …

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More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Feb. 1, 2018

County Prosecutor in Washington State Indicts Construction Company Owner for Trench Collapse Death

Oct. 5, 2016

Representing Workers Injured on the Job – A New York Perspective

Dec. 22, 2015

Feds Resolve to Expand Criminal Prosecutions of Workplace Safety Violations in the New Year

Aug. 5, 2015

Criminally Negligent Construction Company Owner and Project Manager Sentenced Two Years in Prison for Fatal Trench Collapse