Minority Workers are Injured More Often on Construction Sites

By Neil Kalra

Every year, at least 700 construction workers are killed on the job in the U.S., according to the Laborers Health and Safety Fund of North America. But for minorities as a whole, construction work is even more dangerous. The organization’s research reveals that every year, tens of thousands of minority workers are seriously injured.

Latinos have the highest minority fatality rate: having held that position every year since 2000. They face a 20 percent higher risk than any other minority of dying from an on-the-job injury.

But collectively, all minorities – typically those who are immigrant workers and have difficulty speaking English – face the highest risk of serious injury or death on a construction site. Reasons for this include:

  • An inability to clearly understand safety instructions or warnings

  • They are often not completely or effectively trained; especially in safety instruction.

  • Often, their experience with work in their home country differs from those here because practices vary and safety regulations are weaker or not well enforced in their native lands.

  • They may also be unfamiliar with their rights to a safe workplace, compensation if injured, or overtime pay when working long hours.

  • Many are treated as “independent contractors,” responsible for their own safety and well-being and exempt from social security, unemployment insurance, and other workplace laws: even if they maybe – legally – employees.

  • And the biggest reason for serious injury among migrant construction workers: They are often assigned the most dangerous (and lowest paying) jobs.

Another major problem is legal status. Anyone in the U.S. illegally is especially vulnerable. Such workers are constantly in fear of deportation and as a result, are afraid to raise safety or wage issues. In addition, almost two-thirds of Latino construction workers (and many non-Latinos) have no health insurance, unless they are in a union. And 60 percent of those without insurance have not seen a doctor in over a year.

But there’s Progress in Minority and Legal Alien Employee Fairness and Safety

Despite all these difficulties, many efforts are underway to help improve the safety of minority and immigrant workers. Issues surrounding minority fairness include:

  • Employees (W-2 workers) are typically paid a salary or a specified hourly rate of pay. But the courts have also ruled that employers may also have a legal employer/employee relationship with contract workers if the employer controls important aspects of the services the contract worker performs, other than their wages.

  • An employer-employee relationship may exist regardless of how the hiring “employer” describes it. For example, if you as a worker are given a 1099 Form rather than a W-2, you may still be an employee. This is because under the Unemployment Insurance Law, just because you sign an agreement to waive your (employee) rights, under New York’s Labor Law that waiver is not necessarily valid.

The latter aspect is due to the distinction between the employer-employee relationship and the independent contractor relationship. It can depend on the level of supervision, direction and control exercised by the employer or his/her designated supervisor on the worker. It is not solely defined by the employer’s description of the relationship.

So technically, if a property owner, his or her contractor, or any subcontractor who has hired a minority worker such as yourself defines your job and pays you for it, though technically you maybe a contact worker, in a legal sense you could be viewed as his or her employee in other aspects of your relationship; and due greater consideration, benefits and other considerations, than you were led to believe by your employer.

This especially applies to who is liable to compensate you for your injuries, over-and-above any monies you may be owed through New York Workers’ Compensation. Gone are the days when an employer alone could determine whether you are an employee or contracted worker – and who is responsible for your safety and compensation if you are injured on the construction site.

Whether you were, or a family member was, injured due to a construction, car, commercial vehicle, or semi-truck accident; you may be entitled to full benefits and compensation. Know your rights and get the answers you are entitled to.

The attorneys at Kalra Law Firm are dedicated to getting construction accident victims the compensation they deserve. Call our office now to speak with one of our experienced construction accident lawyers to represent you in your case. We offer a free initial consultation and will not charge unless we win your case. If you have any questions about your construction accident, call our New York City and Queens Construction accident lawyers today at (718) 897-2211. www.unionlawyer.com

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