Judge Rules CT Contractor Misclassified Employees as Independent Contractors

Royal Construction Company contested seven OSHA safety violations claiming workers were independent contractors; administrative law judge rules against contractor's claims

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited David Dzenutis dba Royal Construction Company, a roofing contractor in Canton, CT, for seven violations of workplace safety standards at a Farmington worksite in 2014. A total of $20,240 in fines was proposed. Royal Construction filed a notice of contest with the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission in August 2014 and litigation commenced.

Royal Construction claimed that the workers at the jobsite were not employees under the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act but instead independent contractors who worked under their own supervision, supplied their own tools and made their own hours. 

After review, Administrative Law Judge Keith E. Bell found that the Labor Department established the following:

  • Royal Construction had employees at the jobsite, and provided materials, tools, trailer and equipment needed for the project.
  • Dzenutis had control over the workers and worksite safety. 
  • Royal Construction determined when and for how long the individuals worked; the work was done as part of the regular business of Royal Construction.
  • The company paid hourly wages to the individuals working at the site. 

Judge Bell also upheld the citations and proposed penalties. The full court decision and order can be read here.

"Employers cannot evade their responsibility by claiming that workers on a jobsite are independent contractors when the facts show otherwise. We will not hesitate to pursue appropriate legal action to ensure that workers are provided with the safeguards to which they are entitled," said Michael Felsen, the regional solicitor of labor for New England. 

"Judge Bell's decision and order upholds a basic tenet of the OSH Act, the employer/employee relationship. Employers have a fundamental responsibility to their employees, to provide them with a safe and healthful workplace," said Kim Stille, OSHA's regional administrator for New England.

The original inspection was conducted by OSHA's Hartford Area Office. The case was litigated for OSHA by attorney Mark Pedulla of the regional Office of the Solicitor in Boston.