Roofing Contractor Finally Pays $365K in Penalties for Endangering Employees

June 03, 2024
Joshua Herion, a Waukegan roofing contractor who has routinely endangered employees by ignoring federal workplace standards and penalties assesses for its violations since 2014, has paid $365,576 in fines and interest, after the U.S. Department of Labor moved to seize the employer's assets as part of OSHA’s debt collection program.
The action follows a January 2024 federal court's default order to pay the outstanding penalties, attorney's fees, and interest for repeatedly exposing employees to falls from elevations in 2022. Falls are the leading cause of death and serious injuries for people employed in the construction industry. Since 2014, OSHA has cited Herion and his companies nine times for violations related to fall protection.
Using the judgment by District Judge Elaine E. Bucklo, the department filed liens on Herion's real property in Illinois in March 2024 and filed a motion to compel responses to its asset discovery on May 6, 2024, to get information on other collectable assets. That notice prompted Herion to finally comply with the court order and make payment. On May 20, 2024, the department filed a notice of satisfaction of judgment with the Northern District of Illinois' Eastern Division to confirm Herion, operator of ECS Roofing Professionals Inc., had made the required payments.
"The Department of Labor took unprecedented action to force Joshua Herion and his company, ECS Roofing Professionals Inc., to respond to a federal court and pay more than $360,000 in penalties for putting his workers lives and well-being in danger repeatedly," said Regional Solicitor of Labor Christine Heri in Chicago. "Herion exhausted his rightful appeals process and even after the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission and the courts upheld the OSHA penalties, he refused to comply until his personal property was jeopardized."
On Aug. 23, 2023, the department filed a debt collection action in the district court, resulting in the court issuing the default judgment in January 2024, after Herion continually refused to pay the debt and accept the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission decision on March 6, 2023. The commission decision affirmed OSHA citations issued to Herion and ECS Roofing Professionals Inc. for exposing employees to deadly fall hazards at job sites in Illinois and Wisconsin in October 2022.
"Federal regulations require employers to meet their legal obligation to protect workers on the job," said OSHA Region Administrator Bill Donovan in Chicago. "OSHA will hold employers like Herion and ECS Roofing Professionals accountable when they callously ignore their responsibility for their employees' safety. Every year, too many construction workers fall victim to the leading cause of workplace fatalities in the industry because employers fail to provide or use fall protection."
EPA Fines Brockton, Mass. Company for Alleged Clean Water Act Violations
The EPA recently reached an agreement with an auto dealer, warehouser, and scrap metal seller based in Brockton, Massachusetts for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act. As a result of EPA's action, Everett's Auto Parts, Inc. agreed to come into compliance and pay a penalty of $74,551.
"It is of the utmost importance for companies to understand the permits they need and what they mean so that we can protect oceans, rivers, and streams as well as the surrounding community from contaminated water and oil spills," said EPA New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash. "Companies have an even greater responsibility when it comes to communities who have had more than their fair share of pollution. Let this action serve as a reminder to companies who have obligations under the Clean Water Act to follow the regulations closely to protect human health and the environment."
In August 2022, EPA conducted an inspection of Everett's Auto Parts three co-located facilities in Brockton and East Bridgewater, Massachusetts. As part of its industrial operations, Everett's Auto Parts discharges stormwater to waters of the United States and is therefore subject to EPA's Multi-Sector General Permit for Stormwater Discharges Associated with Industrial Activity (MSGP). In addition, Everett's Auto Parts has an aboveground oil tank storage capacity that subjects it to the Oil Pollution Prevention regulation.
At the time of EPA's inspection, the company had authorization to discharge stormwater associated with industrial activity from its facility under three separate MSGP permits. EPA alleged that while Everett's Auto Parts had coverage to discharge stormwater associated with industrial activity under these permits, it failed to list its scrap metal activities under the permit, which requires additional sampling parameters.
In addition, EPA alleged that the company failed to identify all discharge points (also known as outfalls) and to conduct sufficient monitoring efforts. EPA also alleged that Everett's Auto Parts failed to fully implement its Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure Plan including failing to have adequate secondary containment for its storage tanks.
The Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of pollutants to navigable waters unless in compliance with, among other things, a Clean Water Act National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System or NPDES Permit.
For stormwater discharges, facilities can apply for coverage under a general permit. In states not authorized to administer the NPDES program, such as Massachusetts, the EPA's MSGP applies. The MSGP requires facilities to submit a Notice of Intent to be covered under the general permit; prepare and implement a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP); conduct inspections, monitoring, and sampling; and meet other requirements, all designed to prevent or reduce the discharge of stormwater containing pollutants to surface waters. As previously stated, Everett's Auto Parts had applied and received coverage under the MSGP.
Under the Clean Water Act, EPA promulgated the Oil Pollution Prevention regulations to establish procedures to prevent the discharge of oil from non-transportation related onshore facilities into the waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines. Owners or operators of onshore facilities that, due to their location, could reasonably be expected to discharge oil in "harmful quantities" into the waters of the United States, must prepare and implement a Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plan as required under the Clean Water Act. They must also provide adequate secondary containment for all aboveground storage tanks.
EPA Orders Southern California Water Company to Comply with Safe Drinking Water Law
The EPA has issued a Unilateral Administrative Order to the Havasu Water Company to take a series of steps to prevent further violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act. In taking this action to protect the health of the community served by the Havasu Water Company, the EPA specifically cited the company’s failure to adhere to the Act’s drinking water regulations, including violation of the maximum allowable level for total trihalomethanes. Trihalomethanes are byproducts that may form during the disinfection process and may threaten human health through long-term exposure at levels above the federal limits.
“A top priority under EPA’s public health mission is to ensure that the drinking water of all of our communities – no matter how big or small, or wealthy or disadvantaged – is safe and reliable,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “We will continue to fully utilize our authority to make sure that safe drinking water standards are met.”
The National Primary Drinking Water Regulations under the Safe Drinking Water Act set a maximum contaminant level for total trihalomethanes at 80 micrograms per liter. Long-term exposure to levels above that may lead to increased risk of cancer, along with liver, kidney, or central nervous problems. Additional Havasu Water Company violations cited by the EPA include the company’s failure to have qualified personnel operate the water system, failure to provide required public notifications, failure to correct significant deficiencies with the system, and failure to report appropriate surface water treatment data.
The Havasu Water Company is a privately-owned community water system located along the western shore of Lake Havasu and within the boundaries of the Chemehuevi Indian Reservation. The system relies on surface water filtration treatment to serve drinking water to approximately 361 people.
The Unilateral Administrative Order requires the company to develop a plan, according to EPA-imposed deadlines, to come into compliance with the total trihalomethanes limit, retain an appropriately certified operator, issue required public notices, address any remaining significant deficiencies, and submit appropriate and timely surface water treatment data.
EPA can issue a Unilateral Administrative Order as an enforceable instrument to require violators to address outstanding violations with corrective actions on an established schedule. F or more information about this order and EPA’s actions, visit Regulatory Oversight of the Havasu Water Company Public Water System, Needles, CA.
USPS Again Wrongfully Fired Probationary Mail Carrier Shortly After Reporting Workplace Injury
After a two-day bench trial, the U.S. Department of Labor obtained a federal court judgment that orders the U.S. Postal Service to pay $141,307 in lost wages and damages for emotional distress suffered to a probationary mail carrier who the agency fired after they reported an on-the-job injury to their supervisor and filed an accident report.
Judge Adrienne Nelson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon found USPS discriminated against and wrongfully terminated the employee 21 days after the worker reported that they suffered a leg injury near the end of their shift as they unloaded mail from a USPS truck. The agency fired the worker 11 days before the probationary period ended. The judgment follows an investigation by the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration and litigation filed by the department's Office of the Solicitor when an administrative settlement could not be reached.
Since 2020, the department has filed nine federal lawsuits to protect USPS probationary employees similarly fired after reporting injuries in California, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington. In several of these lawsuits, the department found USPS did not follow its own policies and procedures related to probation, including timely evaluation of the employee and completion of probationary reports, namely PS Form 1750. In the Oregon decision, the judge noted that USPS' failure to do so provided "evidence of retaliatory intent."
"Unconscionably, the U.S. Postal Service has fired probationary employees repeatedly after they reported workplace injuries," said Regional Solicitor of Labor Marc Pilotin in San Francisco. "Employees and their families are harmed by these baseless terminations. In fact, the Oregon court found they caused ‘significant mental, emotional and financial stress."
In addition to these lawsuits, the department has identified a repeated pattern of similar actions by USPS. Since 2020, OSHA has resolved five related investigations in California, Florida, Illinois and New Jersey, and currently has three similar cases awaiting trial against USPS in Washington state. Federal law forbids employers from taking adverse actions or punishing employees who report an injury or workplace hazard.
The Oregon decision is one of several recent court orders in the department's favor. In a Washington case decided last year, a federal court in Tacoma issued a summary judgment, finding the USPS did retaliate against a probationary employee who reported a workplace injury.
In a case currently pending, the court stated it would draw negative inferences against the USPS regarding why it terminated the employee and ordered it to pay the department $37,222 in attorney's fees for its failure to preserve critical evidence by destroying text messages and throwing the personnel records of a probationary mail carrier — fired one day after they reported a workplace injury — into the garbage. The court's final decisions about back wages, damages and other issues are pending trial.
"We will continue to combat retaliation and seek systemic change at USPS to ensure it protects those workers who deliver for our country," Pilotin added.
EPA Fines Pesticide Seller in Paris, Missouri, for Allegedly Violating Federal Law
The EPA penalized Logan Agri-Service, Inc. for allegedly repackaging pesticide products, in violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. The Illinois-based pesticide dealer, which operates a branch in Paris, Missouri, will pay a civil penalty of $74,806.
According to EPA, employees at Logan Agri-Services’ Paris branch were repackaging pesticides from bulk containers into containers provided by customers, without required repackaging agreements from the pesticide manufacturers. Further, Logan Agri-Services failed to obtain a registration number from EPA for its Paris branch in order to produce pesticides at that location.
“Registering pesticide products with EPA helps to ensure that, when used according to label directions, the products will not harm people, non-target species, or the environment,” said Jodi Bruno, acting director of EPA Region 7’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division. “Proper pesticide labeling is critical to protecting public health so consumers are aware of a product’s ingredients, how the product can be safely used, and how the product should be properly stored and disposed.”
Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, pesticide manufacturers, distributors, and appliers are required to comply with the law’s registration, labeling, packaging, and application regulations.
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