Major IT Vendors Violated Labor Laws

Federal auditors identified four information technology contractors that have committed big violations of health or wage regulations, as part of an investigation of 15 suppliers with prior offenses that won awards totaling more than $6 billion in 2009.

Federal auditors identified four information technology contractors that have committed big violations of health or wage regulations, as part of an investigation of 15 suppliers with prior offenses that won awards totaling more than $6 billion in 2009.

A Government Accountability Office review of previous labor violations by federal contractors, which was released on Friday, describes the infractions by the unnamed firms:

The government awarded one formerly delinquent company about $4 million in 2009 for providing the Agriculture, Defense and Veterans Affairs departments, as well as the General Services Administration with medical equipment, IT services and maintenance --

  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the company for 77 health and safety violations, including 1 repeat and 65 serious violations, and fines of $140,000 since fiscal year 2005.
  • In one OSHA case, citations were given for failing to provide protective gear from hazardous chemicals and failure to keep work sites free from hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees. As part of a settlement agreement, the firm agreed to take corrective actions and pay $76,000 in penalties.
  • The Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division has assessed over $100,000 in back wages to more than 150 employees since fiscal year 2005. The firm agreed to pay these assessments.
  • In 2008, in a press release, an OSHA official accused the company of tolerating serious injuries, including amputations, as a cost of doing business.
  • In 2009, an administrative law judge ruled that the company violated the NLRA and engaged in unfair labor practices by removing a union steward from a work facility for advocating for employees.
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid found nearly 600 undocumented immigrants working for the company in 2008. A manager at the company pleaded guilty to conspiracy and employee verification fraud for knowingly encouraging and inducing undocumented immigrants to reside in the country and knowingly concealing, harboring, and shielding these individuals from detection, and routinely accepting false identification documents.
  • Company agreed to pay over $475,000 in fines for several violations of environmental regulations that took place between 2004 and 2009, including failing to properly label and store hazardous waste, failing to comply with permitted waste discharge limits and violating state air regulations.

A separate company received $4 billion for providing Defense and NASA with IT services, equipment maintenance and repair, logistics support and other professional services --

  • WHD has assessed $1.6 million in back wages for over 250 employees since fiscal year 2005 for not paying proper prevailing wages, holiday, vacation, and sick pay. The firm has agreed to pay these assessments.
  • A 2006 OSHA inspection found that employees were working in a trench over 10 feet deep without proper protection against cave-ins. OSHA documentation states that the company's leadman was aware but did not follow the excavation requirements. The firm entered into an informal agreement with OSHA and agreed to pay $40,000 in penalties. As part of the agreement, the firm did not admit to violating OSHA regulations.

Another previous violator earned $200,000 in 2009 for providing industrial and IT manufacturing, construction and engineering services to the Defense and Homeland Security departments --

  • OSHA has cited the company for 17 serious violations and assessed about $95,000 in penalties since fiscal year 2005.
  • In 2007, an employee was killed by machinery lacking safety devices. A similar incident occurred at the same facility in 1984, but no one was injured. Company was also cited in two different 1998 inspections for not ensuring that machinery had proper safety devices. One month after the fatality, OSHA inspectors observed machinery without safety devices, risking employee injury or death. According to OSHA records, company management informed OSHA they did not know why the safety device was removed.
  • In settlement, OSHA cited the company for 18 violations, including potential for falling from heights, lack of adequate protective gear, improper storage of combustible equipment, and employee exposure to electric shock and combustible materials from improper maintenance. As part of the agreement, the company made no admission to violating OSHA regulations.

A third one-time wayward contractor earned $1.4 million in 2009 for providing electronic display and imaging technologies to the Defense and Transportation departments --

  • OSHA has cited the company for 30 health and safety violations, including 2 willful and 24 serious, and $100,000 in fines since fiscal year 2005. These included a lack of eye and face protection for employees working with various acids, improper storage of combustible materials, unguarded moving machine parts, several electrical hazards, and lack of adequate first-aid supplies. In the settlement agreement related to these violations, the company did not admit to OSHA's allegations and citations.
  • Company had a series of chemical burn accidents and hydrofluoric acid exposure from 1999 to 2007 that led to employee hospitalization, including several burns to employees' face, chest, arms, and shoulders.
  • According to OSHA records, one of the plant's managers admitted that despite the history of accidental acid burns, corrective actions were not taken, citing the lack of time, personnel, and resources, despite knowledge of OSHA standards. Further, a plant manager informed OSHA that "it was not a priority" to produce a required plan that could prevent employee burns.