Contractor Sentenced for Denying Compensation to Injured Worker

11 Dec, 2023 Liz Carey

                               

Minneapolis, MN (WorkersCompensation.com) – A Minneapolis construction company owner was sentenced Monday to two years' probation for lying to his employees about workers’ compensation following an injury.

Nelson Israel Lopez Giron, 35, pleaded guilty to insurance fraud. He will serve 20 days of electronic home monitoring and two year probation, as well as pay restitution, a $1,000 fine and perform 10 hours of community service. Giron will be prohibited from accepting any federal or state contracts while on probation, officials said.

According to court records, one of Lopez Giron’s employees was struck in the eye with a nail in early 2020. The injury caused permanent vision damage. But Lopez Giron offered the worker, Juan Carlos Escalante Serrano, eye drops and told him to go back to work. The worker also said that Lopez Giron told Serrano to lie about how he was injured when he sought medical attention the day after the injury.

Initially, Serrano told medical staff he was injured after falling on ice, but later came forward to claim workers’ compensation with the help of the carpenters’ union and some worker advocates.

Lopez Giron denies he discounted the employee’s injury or offered him eye drops. As the owner of Giron Construction, he initially denied any knowledge of Serrano when contacted about the insurance claim. Later, he said Serrano was a subcontractor of a subcontractor.

Lopez Giron told his insurance company that he didn’t have any employees on the day Serrano was injured, even though Serrao said he was one of more than a dozen employees present on the job site. Authorities said his falsehoods about his employees meant that Giron Construction should have paid more than $20,500 a year in workers’ compensation premiums.

“Workers' compensation insurance is a critical protection that workers expect to be there if they are injured on the job,” Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty said in a statement. “Mr. Lopez Giron tried to cut corners and not play by the rules by which most other business owners play. His employee paid the price for his conduct.”

Alberto Miera, Lopez Giron’s attorney, said his client wasn’t aware that he was breaking the law. Lopez Giron has a sixth grade education, Miera said, and fled Honduras for the United States when he was 16. Lopez Giron built his construction business through hard work, Miera said.

“The business grew beyond his realistic abilities,” Miera said during the court proceedings. “He has suffered the consequences.”

Since the case was brought to light, Lopez Giron has suffered a substantial loss of business, Miera said. News coverage, and the allegations of giving eye drops for a serious injury, have hurt Lopez Giron financially, Miera said.

Judge Shereen Askalani told Lopez Giron during sentencing, “You are not a victim in this crime.”

Lopez Giron was sentenced under a “stay of imposition,” which means the felony conviction will be reduced to a misdemeanor if he stays within the terms of his probation.

Miera said Lopez Giron accepts the responsibility for his crimes.

At sentencing, Serrano told the judge he still can’t see well out of his injured eye and being in the sun is painful for him.

“My sight is not good… I suffer,” Serrano through an interpreter. Serrano will receive around $30,000 in workers’ compensation, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL), a labor organization, said

CTUL helped Serrano bring his case, and to receive multiple medical treatments. The group also helped him find housing because he had received housing through his job.

Both CTUL and the carpenters’ union have led campaigns to enforce labor standards in the construction industry. A survey conducted by the group found that 20 percent of the construction workers they talked to had been injured on the job.

“This is not a one-off incident, but the tip of the iceberg,” said Carlos Garcia Velasco, an organizer with CTUL. “Unfortunately, cases like this often do not come to public attention. When they do, it is imperative that we make it clear to workers, labor brokers and developers that this type of abuse is not acceptable.”


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    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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