Attorney General Cuomo Announces Arrest Of Nursing Home Ceo For Failing To Cover Hundreds Of Employees With Workers' Compensation
NEW YORK, NY (August 7, 2008) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the arrest of the CEO of a Bronx nursing home who illegally failed to secure workers’ compensation insurance for hundreds of employees. Today’s arrest is the first in New York State under a new workers’ compensation law, which makes it a felony for employers to fail to have this insurance for their workers.
Helen Sieger, 55, President and CEO of the Kingsbridge Heights Care Center, was arrested for failing to have workers’ compensation coverage for over one year, from May 31, 2007 to June 26, 2008. The Kingsbridge Heights Care Center employs over 400 hundred orderlies, healthcare providers, nutrition and clerical staff, and other workers. The nursing home serves over 300 residents.
“Today’s arrest should send a strong message: Employers who think they can wait until they get caught before getting workers’ compensation insurance are in for a rude awakening. Any employer trying to cheat workers and the State by failing to have workers’ compensation insurance will be held accountable by my office,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Providing protection for workers injured on the job is the law, and we all share the cost when employers ignore taking care of their employees.”
This is the first arrest made under New York’s new workers’ compensation law, which became effective on April 12, 2007. Under the new law, any employer of more than 5 people who fails to cover their employees through this insurance is committing a class “E” felony, punishable by up to four years in prison. Under the previous law, the crime was a misdemeanor.
When employees are injured on the job, but their employer does not have workers’ compensation, the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board covers their claim by using funds collected from all employers with workers’ compensation coverage. This then drives up the costs of the entire system. In the period during which Sieger’s business was not covered, six employees claimed injuries that went to the Workers’ Compensation Board.
On June 19, 2008, the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board issued a “stop work” order to take effect on June 30, 2008, due to Sieger’s failure to obtain workers’ compensation insurance. The “stop work” order would have involved the immediate closing of the nursing home and emergency removal of the patients. After being threatened with these actions, Sieger obtained workers’ compensation coverage on June 27, 2008. Like other types of insurance, however, workers’ compensation is not retroactive, and Sieger is accused of violating the law by neglecting to have this insurance.
New York State Workers’ Compensation Board Chair Zachary Weiss said, “When Kingsbridge Heights Rehabilitation Center failed to cover its employees for Workers Compensation benefits, it put their physical and fiscal health at risk. This charge serves as an example of the importance New York State places on employee protection and Workers’ Compensation.”
This is the latest in a series of actions by Attorney General Cuomo to protect workers. Last week, Cuomo secured the arrest and arraignment of two contractors who kept more than $500,000 in wages from 84 construction workers for work performed on public construction projects throughout New York City. Earlier this year Cuomo recovered over $1,000,000 for hundreds of Bronx construction workers who were shortchanged out of overtime pay.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Rachel Gold, and Investigators Brian Ford and Robin Womack, under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice James Rogers, in conjunction with Workers Compensation Board Investigator Jonathan Tisk.
The charges against the defendants are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.