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Jax Daily Record Monday, Feb. 24, 202005:10 AM EST

Jacksonville roofer found in contempt of court over $2.2 million in penalties

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Penalties were levied by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for safety violations.
by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta on Jan. 3 found a Jacksonville roofing contractor in contempt of court for failing to pay $2,202,049 in penalties levied by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for safety violations at worksites.

The Secretary of Labor filed a petition on Jan. 31 for coercive sanctions, possibly including incarceration, against Great White Construction Inc., Florida Roofing Experts Inc. and Travis Slaughter, owner of the companies.

The government seeks to enforce orders from October 2017 and June 2018, based on evidence the Slaughter and his roofing companies, despite being issued numerous citations, continued to violate OSHA standards and then failed to pay penalties.

Slaughter's conduct was described by OSHA as “egregious, willful and repeat violations for lack of fall safety protection and other safety and health hazards at worksites in Florida.”

A willful violation, according to OSHA regulations, is “a violation in which the employer either knowingly failed to comply with a legal requirement (purposeful disregard) or acted with plain indifference to employee safety.”

On Aug. 18, 2019, the government filed a petition, related to the two previous court orders, for civil contempt against Slaughter and his companies.

After receipt of the Jan. 3 contempt ruling, Slaughter filed a response with the court.

Slaughter said he had closed Great White Construction, lost documents, and does not remember receiving copies of the court orders.

He contends that OSHA “began to unfairly target Great White Construction and assess hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.”

“The crushing amount of the fines caused me to stop reading any mail or documents from OSHA,” Slaughter wrote in his response.

According to documents filed Jan. 31 with the petition for sanctions, OSHA Area Director in the Jacksonville office Michelle Gonzalez said multiple citations were issued against Slaughter's companies for failing to protect the roofing company's employees from falling more than six feet and other safety violations.

She stated that Slaughter failed to provide required documentation that the violations were corrected and has failed to submit any payment for the $2.2 million in penalties assessed against him and his companies.

Gonzalez also said that since May 23, 2018, the Jacksonville Area Office inspected seven Florida Roofing worksites, and issued citations after all seven inspections for violations similar to those related to the court's previous enforcement orders.

The most recent inspection was conducted Jan. 9 at a residential work site in Fleming Island.

A worker was observed working on the roof without fall protection and a citation for willful violation was issued, with a $375,051 proposed penalty.

In addition, Gonzalez said that according to the city Building Inspection Services database, between Jan. 9 and Jan. 31 this year, Florida Roofing was issued 66 permits to conduct roofing activities at 66 different locations, “demonstrating that the company continues to actively engage in roofing activity.”

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