ON MAY 9, FOUR SUPERVISORS FOR Crestview Hills, Ky.–based Fischer Homes were arrested and charged with aiding and abetting or harboring illegal aliens for financial gain. Similar charges followed for contractors who provided Fischer Homes with workers. If convicted, the defendants face up to 10 years in federal prison and as much as $250,000 in fines. All of the defendants have pleaded not guilty.
These arrests, as well as pending congressional legislation on immigration reform and court decisions affecting workers' comp liability for subcontractors' employees, whether documented or not, have turned the subject of the housing industry's immigrant workforce and its attendant legal problems from an academic discussion to a clear and present threat to the livelihoods of builders.
No longer can home building companies hide behind the defense of not being the employer of the workers that subcontractors bring onto their job-sites or look the other way when subs do not offer the proper certification of compliance with employment eligibility laws. No longer can companies expect—and build their business plans around—the availability of cheap and plentiful labor. And no longer can companies ignore their responsibility for injuries sustained on their projects by any workers—legal or illegal, on the payroll or not.
This in-depth report by BUILDER attempts to lay out the scope of this complex and far-reaching problem, for builders big and small. It also attempts to provide helpful measures that can be taken—good-faith efforts to protect yourself, your trade partners, and the men and women you work with every day.
Additional articles from this Special Report: