Federal Judge Orders NJ Framer to Personally Pay $2M Fine
One of New Jersey’s most flagrant violators of federal workplace safety laws – who continually puts workers at risk of serious injuries or worse – is personally liable for $2 million in penalties assessed by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a federal administrative law judge has ruled.
The judge, with the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, granted the department’s motion for summary judgment against Palisades Park contractor Juan Quevedo-Garcia, owner and principal of BB Frame LLC, following five OSHA inspections at four Bergen County worksites beginning in December 2019. Violations found during these inspections led OSHA to propose $2,004,225 in penalties against BB Frame LLC, and Quevedo-Garcia individually.
Earlier in 2019, Quevedo-Garcia had dissolved his previous framing company, Frame Q LLC, after having racked up over $700,000 in unpaid OSHA penalties for similar prior violations; but he nonetheless continued to do business under the Frame Q trade name.
In December 2019, OSHA conducted two inspections of BB Frame LLC dba Frame Q. The first was in response to a complaint at a worksite in Cliffside Park that resulted in nine safety violations and a $520,860 penalty. The second, at a Fort Lee location, resulted in five citations and a proposed penalty of $426,785.
In January 2020, as part of the agency’s local emphasis program for fall hazards, OSHA opened an inspection at another Cliffside Park location and issued five safety citations with a $405,588 proposed penalty.
OSHA completed two additional inspections in February 2020 at a Palisades Park site. The agency initiated one as part of the local emphasis program for fall hazards and issued three citations with a proposed penalty of $274,892. The other inspection, initiated in response to a complaint, resulted in eight violations and a $369,000 proposed penalty.
From the five inspections, OSHA identified eight willful, 10 repeat, and 12 serious violations for hazards that included failure to use fall, head and eye protection; unsafe use of stepladders; scaffolding, housekeeping and fire safety deficiencies; lack of stair rails and lack of forklift training.
After Quevedo-Garcia contested the citations, the department filed complaints with the commission on Aug. 27, 2020. The judge granted summary judgment in a decision issued on Feb. 25, 2022, holding Quevedo-Garcia personally liable for the citations and for payment of a total combined penalty of $2,004,225 for all violations.
The judge’s decision found that Quevedo-Garcia “dominated BB Frame and abused its corporate form to circumvent the OSH Act,” and therefore holding Quevedo-Garcia “personally liable for the company’s violations and resulting penalties is necessary to prevent the continued or renewed circumvention of the OSH Act and avoidance of the Act’s expressed legislative purpose and policy.”
“Among construction industry employers, Juan Quevedo-Garcia and his shell companies have been the most prominent OSHA scofflaws in New Jersey in the past decade. The administrative law judge’s decision stops this employer from ignoring safety in the future and sets a critical precedent that the U.S. Department of Labor will use every enforcement and legal tool available against serial violators who attempt to evade federal safety laws with corporate shell games,” said Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda.
“Juan Quevedo-Garcia deliberately failed to pay the fines, and displayed a total disregard for the safety of his workers and for the law. This ruling sends a clear message that business owners who abuse the system to avoid responsibility will be held legally accountable when they fail to uphold their obligation to provide a safe workplace and think they can ignore federal fines,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker.
OSHA’s Hasbrouck Heights Area Office conducted the five inspections. Senior Trial Attorney Alexander Kondo, Trial Attorney Carina De La Paz and Senior Trial Attorney Andrew Karonis of the regional Office of the Solicitor in New York litigated the case for the department.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's workers by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.