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Florida Contractors Face Fines from OSHA for Bridge Collapse in March

Employers, especially those in construction, almost always say “the safety of our employees is our number one priority”.  Most of the time, this is true.  Unfortunately, sometimes it is not true and people get hurt as a result. 

What Happened

Florida International University (FIU) paid several contractors to build a pedestrian bridge over Tamiami Trail (U.S. route 41).

  • The main span of the bridge was lifted into place on March 10, 2016.
  • On March 13th, the engineer in charge of the project reported cracking on the north section of the main span. The engineer left a voicemail with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) which explained that the cracks were not a safety issue and could be repaired later.
  • On March 15th, engineers were adjusting tension on a portion of the bridge and it collapsed killing 6 people and injuring 9 others.

The Investigation

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) sent a team to the site the day of the collapse.  Over the course of the next two years, the NTSB and FDOT investigated the pieces of the bridge, all communications to and from the contractors and governing bodies, and all paperwork filed in preparation for building.

After two years of investigation, it was determined that the contractors were negligent in their assessment that the cracks in the bridge were benign and they failed to protect their employees.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was given the go ahead to propose just under $90,000 in fines to be evenly dispersed amongst the contractors.  In addition to the fines, civil suits are being filed in 2018 and plaintiff’s compensation for damages could rise to over $1 billion.

If you feel that your employer has put you in an uncomfortable position or in outright danger, you may have options.  Whether it be discrimination, physical danger, or some other workplace transgression, if you need guidance, contact Elias Dsouza at Dsouza and Strachan Lawgroup Group for a free consultation.  Elias has the skills and experience to defend you.

Does Your Business Need an Attorney on Retainer?

Owning and operating a business is hard enough when things are going well, but when inevitable issues arise, you may need to call in reinforcements.  Most business owners are resourceful, competent, and ambitious which makes them ready and able to handle almost any problems as they come…. almost.  Before discussing what “almost” means here, let’s talk about things a business owner can usually handle without an attorney.

Starting a business can seem overwhelming, but the resources needed to get started on your own are out there.  Things you can do without an attorney can include:

In addition, there are some tasks that can be done on your own, but may be easier with the services of an attorney such as:

  • Choosing the structure of ownership (sole proprietorship, limited liability corporation, S corporation, etc.).
  • Creating contracts.
  • Trademark searches when choosing the legal business name.

Why Your Business Needs an Attorney

Hiring an attorney can be intimidating.  Most people are afraid of the costs involved, but keeping an attorney at the ready can actually reduce costs down the road.  Your business may need an attorney to handle things like:

  • Law suits filed by employees for discrimination and/or wrongful termination (See: A Quick Guide to Wrongful Termination).
  • Real estate acquisitions or issues.
  • Intellectual property protection.
  • Tax law consultation.
  • Protection against any potential future issues.

Perhaps one of the most important reasons to retain the services of an attorney is the prevention of future problems.  If you hire an experienced attorney, you may not have some of the issues listed above.  If you are starting a business or you already have an established business and you believe you need the guidance of an experienced attorney, consider Dsouza and Strachan Lawgroup of Plantation, Florida.  They have the knowledge and experience your business needs to move forward responsibly and securely.

A Quick Guide to Wrongful Termination

While getting fired from your job always feels wrong, it might not be illegal even if there is no apparent reason.  Florida is what is called an “at-will” state.  Generally, “at-will” means an employer can fire you without cause, but there are exceptions that vary by state. One important piece of legislation all states must acknowledge is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  As pertains to wrongful termination, this Act makes it illegal for an employer to fire you because of:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • National Origin

In addition, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 prohibits employers from discriminating (firing in this case) people over the age of 40 solely because of their age.

Exceptions to At-Will Employment in Florida

One type of exception to at-will employment is the public-policy exception.  Under the public-policy exception, an employer cannot fire someone for refusing to breach public policy.  For example, your employer cannot fire you for refusing to break the law.

Another type of exception is the implied-contract exception.  This is meant to protect any employee from being fired if there is an implied contract (not in writing) such as a verbal agreement.  In 38 of 50 states, an implied contract can be used in court during a wrongful termination lawsuit.

The third type of exception to at-will employment is the covenant-of-good-faith exception.  This exception protects people from being fired because of things like malice or false pretenses.  Only six states recognize this exception.

Unfortunately, Florida (along with Georgia, Louisiana, and Rhode Island) does not recognize ANY of the afore mentioned exceptions.

Filing a Lawsuit Against an Employer for Wrongful Termination

If you believe you were wrongfully terminated and want to file suit against your former employer, you should know that there is a statute of limitations.  In general, you need to file within 180 days of the date of termination although this is not “set in stone”.  It is suggested that you collect these vital documents to support your case:

  • Your job description.
  • Your resume.
  • Any and all performance evaluations.
  • Attendance records.
  • Your contract if you have one.

These and many more are important to your case.

Filing a wrongful termination lawsuit against an employer is an extremely complex legal endeavor.  You need guidance and experience.  Dsouza and Strachan Lawgroup has been protecting the people of Plantation, Florida against civil rights violations such as this for over 15 years.  Please, contact Elias Dsouza for more information.