Construction Law Blog
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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.
James R. Lynch, one of the attorneys at the law firm of Ahlers & Cressman PLLC, has been appointed to the Washington State Capital Project Review Committee (PRC). Created by the legislature in 2007, the PRC is responsible for reviewing and approving all public projects in the State of Washington using the General Contractor/Construction Manager (GC/CM) and Design-Build (D-B) delivery methods of construction. The PRC also certifies certain qualified government bodies to use these methods more broadly. The PRC consists of key representatives of Washington public project owners, designers, general contractors, specialty/subcontractors, construction managers, construction trades labor, and minority/women businesses. James has been appointed to the PRC’s Private Sector seat for a three-year term.
On May 3, 2016, the Washington State Court of Appeals affirmed a jury’s verdict in favor of a condominium HOA against a structural engineer for $1,149,332 in damages.
The project in question was The Pointe, an upscale condominium building in Westport, Washington. The developer was Dodson-Duus, LLC. The architect was Elkins Architects (“Elkins”). The structural engineer was Engineers Northwest, Inc. (“ENW”). ENW contracted with Elkins for the structural engineering work.
When issuing citations under the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act of 1973 (“WISHA”), the Department of Labor and Industries (“L&I”) commonly classifies violations as either “general” or “serious.” The level of severity has an effect on the civil penalty – for example, the civil penalty of “serious” violation can reach $7,000 per violation – as well as the contractor’s safety record. Contractors with poor safety records may pay more for insurance and have a more difficult time procuring work.
John P. Ahlers, one of the founding members of the law firm of Ahlers & Cressman PLLC, was recently honored with a life membership in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). John has been a member of the ASCE since college (he was the Student Chapter President at WSU in 1975). John grew up in Moses Lake, Washington. His father, John G. Ahlers, was a professional engineer and also a life member of the ASCE, and had a significant influence on John’s career path.
On March 25, 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) published its final rule on occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica (the “Silica Rule”). Crystalline silica is a basic component of soil, sand, granite, and many other materials. Silica exposure is classified as a human lung carcinogen and can cause lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease. Approximately two million construction workers nationwide are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in their workplace as a result of drilling, cutting, crushing, or grinding silica-containing material, such as concrete and stone.
Since 2009, the City of Seattle Department of Constructions & Inspections (formerly part of the Department of Planning (the “Department”) has been considering requiring retrofits for buildings with unreinforced masonry (“URM”) bearing walls. URM buildings are the brick buildings built without steel reinforcements and ties and connections required by modern building codes. They were built throughout the city, but many can be seen in neighborhoods such as Pioneer Square, Chinatown/International District, Columbia City, Capitol Hill, and Ballard. URM buildings are the most likely type to be damaged during earthquakes, and retrofits will make these buildings less vulnerable to damage.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) has jurisdiction to hear bid protests from government contractors seeking review of a federal agency’s contract procurement and awards. The GAO receives thousands of bid protests every year. On April 15, 2016, the GAO published notice of potential changes to its protest procedures, which would significantly change the manner in which protests get filed and decided.
Under Washington’s timber trespass statute, a timber trespass occurs when a person cuts down, girdles, or otherwise injures or carries off any tree, including a Christmas tree, timber, or shrub on the land of another. The timber trespass statute is penal in nature, and its purpose is to “(1) punish a voluntary offender, (2) provide treble damages, and (3) discourage persons from carelessly or intentionally removing another’s merchantable shrubs or trees on the gamble that the enterprise will be profitable if only actual damages are incurred.”
Even the most altruistic employers, at one point or another, will likely face an employment discrimination complaint against their company. Even meritless discrimination claims can cause potential exposure to costly attorney fees and/or significant settlement amounts to the complainant. Juries are unpredictable and litigants often use this fact to extract large settlement sums from employers trying to avoid the costs and unpredictability of litigation. If claims are handled appropriately, costly results can often be avoided (or at least minimized).