By Patrick Markey
More than five months after Irish immigrant Liam Mason hanged himself in a Bronx park, New Jersey state investigators probing his employment circumstances before his death have hit the company where Mason worked with a fine for record-keeping violations, officials said.
New Jersey investigators found that T-Small Paving, a Perth Amboy company, had been violating record keeping on the hours their employees worked, Mike McCarthy, assistant director with the N.J. State Wage and Hour Division, said. The company was fined $500 for that violation and now must appeal or pay the fine, he said.
Federal officials passed the case on to the New Jersey State Department of Labor, a spokesman from that agency said, because the company was not large enough for a federal wage and hour division investigation. However, a federal investigation on the case is still open, a spokesman for the US Department of Labor said, while refusing to comment on the details of the investigation.
A spokeswoman for the New Jersey office of the INS confirmed that agency was also involved in an ongoing investigation into the company.
Mason, who was 23, hanged himself in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx on June 13 after becoming despondent with his working conditions, according to friends, who spoke on condition of anonymity. They alleged Mason had often been working 14-hour days for as little as $40 a day after being brought out from Castleblayney to the United States by a subcontractor for the company.
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Witnesses who may have been able to testify to those allegations have now left the country, a spokesman from the New Jersey state department of labor said.
Federal officials opened the investigation after Irish American and city labor leaders called for an inquiry into the allegations of abuse surrounding Mason’s death.
News of the fine emerged as INS officials reached an agreement with the Department of Labor to allow immigrants who are being exploited to report poor wages and working conditions without repercussions on their immigration status.
The agreement, which takes the form of a memorandum of understanding, is "to allay fears in the immigrant community that prevent complaints about unscrupulous employers being filed," according to a Department of Labor press release.
The agreement "will sharpen our focus on businesses that flout U.S. immigration laws by hiring undocumented workers for substandard wages and employing them under conditions that range from improper to inhumane," INS Commissioner Doris Messinger said in the statement.