Administrative Law Judge Keith E. Bell on Feb. 1 ruled that David Dzenutis, dba Royal Construction Co., a roofing contractor in Canton, Conn., could not claim employees were independent contractors to avoid paying OSHA fines.

“Employers cannot evade their responsibility by claiming that workers on a job site 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.

OSHA cited Royal Construction for seven alleged violations of workplace safety standards at a Farmington, Conn., work site. 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, claiming the workers at the job site 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, Judge Bell found that the Labor Department established the following:

  • Royal Construction had employees at the job site, and provided materials, tools, trailer and equipment needed for the project.
  • Dzenutis had control over the workers and work site 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’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.

Judge Bell also upheld the citations and proposed penalties.