A Massachusetts business owner must pay $650,000 in damages after a federal jury found that he and his company retaliated against an injured worker by reporting his immigration status to law enforcement.
Pedro Pirez and his company, Tara Construction, were ordered to pay the worker $600,000 in punitive damages and $50,000 in compensator damages following OSHA’s 2019 whistleblower investigation.
OSHA accused Pirez of initiating a law enforcement investigation and detention by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement after the employee reported a serious injury and caused OSHA to open a rapid response investigation.
Owner on the hook for $400K
Pirez was held personally responsible for a $400,000 portion of the jury’s award with his company picking up the rest.
“The Department of Labor will not tolerate retaliation against employees who complain of workplace abuses, including when an employer seeks to use an employee’s perceived immigration status as a way to intimidate workers,” Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda said. “Successful enforcement of worker protection laws depends on workers being empowered and feeling safe enough to speak out for themselves and their fellow workers. If workers are brave enough to come forward, we will use all legal tools we have to protect them.”