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$650K in damages for contractor’s unlawful retaliation

lawsuit retaliation

A federal jury in the District of Massachusetts has found that a Massachusetts employer and his company retaliated against an immigrant employee who reported an on-the-job injury.

The whistleblower lawsuit Acosta v. Tara Construction Inc. and Pedro Pirez, filed in 2019, alleged that defendants Tara Construction Inc. and its chief executive officer, Pedro Pirez, initiated a law enforcement investigation and facilitated the employee’s detention by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement after the employee reported a serious injury, which caused OSHA to open an investigation.

According to OSHA, Mr. Pirez arranged for the injured worker to meet him at the Tara Construction office and the employee was arrested immediately after leaving the building. OSHA does not name employees in whistleblower lawsuits.

Although Mr. Pirez testified to OSHA that he had no idea how law enforcement knew where the employee would be when he was detained, a law enforcement account indicates that Mr. Pirez told an officer present at the arrest when the employee would be at Tara Construction’s office. Mr. Pirez further advised the officer that he had no objection to the employee’s arrest there. This account is supported by text messages and records of approximately 14 telephone calls between Mr. Pirez and law enforcement in the days surrounding the arrest, according to OSHA.

The jury awarded $650,000 in damages – $600,000 in punitive damages and $50,000 in compensatory damages – as a result, the Department of Labor announced Wednesday.