On June 21, 2022, a federal jury ordered Tara Construction Inc. and its CEO to pay $650,000 in damages - $50,000 in compensatory damages for emotional distress and $600,000 in punitive damages - to José Martin Paz, an undocumented Massachusetts construction worker. Paz said Tara Construction retaliated against him after he was injured on the job by sparking an immigration investigation that led to his arrest.

Paz, a drywall taper, broke his leg when he fell off a ladder in March 2017. Pedro Pirez, Tara Construction’s CEO, alleged he contacted Boston police because he was concerned over confusion of Paz’s name. Thereafter, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) , initiated an investigation into Paz. About two months after the injury, Pirez asked Paz to come to his office to pick up some money, where he was arrested.

The U.S. Department of Labor filed the lawsuit against Tara Construction and Pirez, in February 2019, following a whistleblower investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The lawsuit alleged defendants initiated a law enforcement investigation and facilitated the employee’s detention by ICE after the employee reported a serious injury and caused OSHA to open a rapid response investigation.

Even though Paz was an undocumented worker, federal labor law prohibits retaliation against employees for exercising their workplace rights, regardless of immigration status. The jury found Tara Construction retaliated against Paz due to his immigration status, not because of Tara Construction allegedly “needed to know Paz’s real name because the hospital was pressing for information.”

Pirez and Tara Construction are considering an appeal, according to their attorney.