Construction Contractor Found in Contempt for Failing to Pay OSHA Penalties

New Jersey construction company and its president forced to pay full $412,000 in safety fines dating back to 1998 plus $30,000 in accrued post-judgment interest.

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The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has recovered payment of $442,000 in penalties and interest from Washington Township, New Jersey-based construction company Altor Inc. and its president Vasilios Saites, after years-long efforts by the Department to collect unpaid penalties for the company’s safety violations.

On July 25, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia issued a decision finding Altor Inc. and Saites in contempt for failing to pay $412,000 in OSHA penalties. After the contempt finding, and subsequent briefing and negotiations by the parties, Altor Inc. and Saites agreed to pay the full penalty, plus $30,000 in accrued post-judgment interest. On November 26, the Department filed a Satisfaction of Judgment with the Court of Appeals confirming their payment of the judgment.

The Department’s recovery of the unpaid penalty plus interest resolves lengthy litigation between Altor Inc., Saites and the Department’s Office of the Solicitor. This litigation included multiple hearings before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) and the Court of Appeals to affirm Altor’s violations of OSHA’s safety requirements, and subsequently hold the employer and its president in civil contempt for failure to pay the affirmed penalty.

OSHA’s Hasbrouck Heights Area Office initially cited the company after an October 1998 investigation identified numerous safety violations at a construction site in Edgewater, NJ, including multiple willful violations of OSHA’s fall protection standards. The settlement remedies the company’s longstanding refusal to pay the associated penalties.

“This successful outcome demonstrates that the U.S. Department of Labor will use all appropriate and available legal tools to ensure that employers do not evade accountability for failing to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor Jeffrey S. Rogoff, in New York. “Our collaborative efforts in this case with Assistant U.S. Attorney Jordan Anger, from the U.S. Attorney’s Office District of New Jersey, help ensure that workplaces are safe and that employers who violate the law do not gain an unfair economic advantage over law-abiding competitors.”

Senior Trial Attorney Amy Tai of the Regional Office of the Solicitor in New York litigated the most recent phase of the case for OSHA. Earlier phases of the contempt proceedings were litigated by Darren Cohen and Micole Allekotte (formerly of the New York Regional Office), and by Ronald Gottlieb of the Occupational Safety and Health Division of the Office of the Solicitor.

“This settlement brings to a close the long overdue fines that Altor Inc. was responsible to pay,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Richard Mendelson, in New York. “These penalties were assessed because Altor Inc. allowed their employees to be exposed to dangerous falls and other hazards. By planning ahead, training employees, and providing the right equipment, employers can protect their workers, prevent falls and other hazards in the workplace, and avoid OSHA fines.”