CSC Industry News – July – 7/15/20

Jul 15, 2020

Sexual Harassment in Construction Industry
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that 18 former employees, who experienced sexual harassment and workplace retaliation at a Long Island-based construction company, were awarded $1.5 million. The agreement also establishes a fund for other workers who also experienced sexual harassment at the company.

An investigation into Trade Off, LLC and Trade Off Plus, LLC (collectively Trade Off) revealed a pattern of severe sexual harassment against female employees over the course of at least four years and retaliation against many of these workers when they complained about the harassment.

“All employees deserve to work in an environment where they are valued and respected and not subjected to harassment,” said James. “Today’s agreement will end Trade Off’s deplorable and unlawful treatment of its female employees and provide affirmative relief to the brave women who came forward. My office remains committed to seeking justice on behalf of workers and mandating accountability on the part of employers. Sexual harassment will never be tolerated, not in construction and not in any other industry.”

According to a press release, the OAG’s investigation found that Trade Off, a company that provides non-union, general labor at construction sites, engaged in severe sexual harassment and retaliation against workers who were primarily women of color. Interviews conducted with witnesses and reviews of substantial documentary evidence revealed that at least 16 women were harassed because of Trade Off’s failure to prevent or adequately respond to sexual harassment at its worksites.

Trump Environmental Policy Overhaul
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Reports in The Detroit News and elsewhere are detailing Trump administration efforts to scale back requirements that agencies consider environmental consequences when approving new oil wells, pipelines, highways, and other projects.

Reporters Jennifer A. Dlouhy and Stephen Lee write that the Nixon-era National Environmental Policy Act will receive a “first-in-decades rewrite of the rules governing how agencies scrutinize projects under the National Environmental Policy Act,” adding that the move “comes as both Democrats and Republicans seek to bolster the economy with new infrastructure projects.”

Dlouhy and and Lee point out that the changes will limit the scope of agency reviews, as well as what projects warrant the scrutiny. “Trump, a former real estate developer who ordered the changes in 2017,” write Dlouhy and Lee, “has complained that some of the nation’s ‘most critical infrastructure projects have been tied up and bogged down by an outrageously slow and burdensome federal approval process.”

Michigan Supreme Court Clarifies Contractor CGL Coverage
LANSING, MI – Is unintentionally faulty work an “accident”? The Michigan Supreme Court said “yes,” particularly in connection to commercial general liability (CGL) insurance. As reported in Construction Dive, the faulty work is therefore, “a valid claim under the subcontractor’s insurance coverage.”

In Skanska USA Building Inc. v. MAP Mechanical Contractors Inc., Skanska sued MAP and two Amerisure insurance companies for $1.4 million over damage caused by MAP’s faulty work on a medical center in Michigan. MAP installed expansion joints backward, which damaged the center’s concrete, steel, and heating system. Amerisure rejected Skanska’s initial insurance claim submitted under one of the subcontractor’s CGL policies.

“In its decision, the court defined an ‘accident’ as ‘an undefined contingency, a casualty, a happening by chance, something out of the usual course of things, unusual, fortuitous, not anticipated, and not naturally to be expected,’” writes Kim Slowey in Construction Dive. “Amerisure left the term ‘accident’ undefined in MAP’s policy. As part of its decision, the court ruled that an often-cited case from 1990, Hawkeye-Security Insurance Co. v. Vector Construction Co., was limited to claims involving pre-1986 projects.”

Keystone XL Faces New Legal Challenge Over Faulty Federal Review
GREAT FALLS, MT – Conservation and landowner groups filed a new lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s approval of the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline to be constructed on federal lands.

Pipeline construction through waterways remains blocked following last week’s ruling by the Supreme Court, which declined to allow Keystone XL to proceed under Nationwide Permit 12, a key water-crossing permit granted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

A press release from The Center for Biological Diversity declared: “In addition to Nationwide Permit 12, Keystone XL had also been approved by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to cross approximately 44 miles of federal public lands in Montana. Today’s lawsuit challenges that approval and underlying review by the Bureau and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

The complaint asserts that these agencies’ reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act are riddled with the same errors and omissions as earlier versions deemed insufficient by a federal court in 2018. The lawsuit also challenges the Bureau’s approval—made in reliance on flawed data and outdated spill-response plans—under federal land-management statutes.