A recent New York Times article shone a light on something that many people in and around the construction industry already knew: many of the workers involved in some of New York City’s riskiest construction work are Hispanic or Latino. Too many employers and contractors rely on workers’ undocumented status and fear of governmental action to place them in jobs where corners are cut, and worker safeguards are inadequate or nonexistent. Those employers use undocumented workers’ unfamiliarity with the legal system, and fear of being reported and possibly deported, to keep them from speaking out about illegal safety shortcuts. If you’re hurt in a New York construction accident, don’t be intimidated into silence. You have rights, whether you’re documented or undocumented. Contact a New York City construction accident attorney right away to learn more about your legal options.
According to the Times report, 10 of the 12 New York construction workers who died on the job last year were Latino. 50% or more of all construction workers on non-unions jobs are Latino, while roughly 30% of workers on union jobs are Latino, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Some employers are very safety conscious. Others, however, are more concerned with cost savings and meeting deadlines than following all of New York’s safety rules and regulations. That latter group often counts on undocumented Latinos’ fears to keep them silent. These workers may recognize that their sites are not safe, but be afraid to speak out for fear of being reported.
For example, last summer, S.H., an immigrant from Ecuador, was working in the Bronx. One day, he told his wife he was going to find a new job. A week later, before he could make that job change, he died. The building in which he was working collapsed, trapping him under several hundred pounds of rubble.
According to the Times, some workers believed that S.H.’s job site was not safe, but they feared speaking out. That is very understandable. Complaining about the safety conditions at your construction job site might get you fired, thereby cutting off what is possibly your family’s sole source of income. Some workers, though, might fear a worse fate: being reported to immigration authorities and possibly being deported away from their families and away from the place they’ve called home for decades. (S.H., for example, came to the U.S. in 2001 and had lived in New York ever since.)
One thing that is very important for all workers to understand is that you have certain rights in New York. If you were hurt at your construction job as a result of a fall or being struck by a falling object, you are entitled to pursue a lawsuit and seek compensation under New York’s statutes. (This one is Labor Law Section 240(1).) If you were hurt in an accident that was the result of someone violating one or more of New York’s construction site safety laws and regulations, then you are entitled to sue under New York law as well. (This one is Labor Law Section 241(6).)
If you prove the things that these laws require you to prove, then you are entitled to go forward and obtain compensation, regardless of whether you were documented or undocumented. Many undocumented workers may not know this, but it is true, and it is important to keep in mind. You may fear that your only choice is to continue risking your life and struggle in silence, but it is not.
To get the advice you need and to put a potent advocate in your corner, reach out to the knowledgeable New York City construction injury attorneys at Arcia & Associates. Our team has many years helping all kinds of workers, including immigrants (both documented and undocumented,) to use the legal system and get what the law says is fair. Put the power of New York’s largest Hispanic and largest minority law firm on your side.
Contact us at (718) 651-4363 today.