The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

September 29, 2011

Hearing set over Zaloudek Grain’s lack of workers’ comp insurance

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

KREMLIN — An Oct. 11 administrative hearing has been set in Oklahoma City for Zaloudek Grain Co., which has not paid a $750 fine imposed by state labor officials for not having workers’ compensation insurance when two 17-year-olds lost legs in a grain auger accident.

Emergency responders worked an hour Aug. 4 to cut through the 12-inch auger and free Bryce Gannon and Tyler Zander before they were flown to OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City. Gannon returned home recently, while Zander remains in the hospital, where a spokeswoman said he is in fair condition.

Don Schooler, general counsel for Oklahoma Department of Labor, said Oklahoma City lawyer Rick Hornbeek has entered an appearance in the matter on behalf of Zaloudek.

The upcoming hearing is a summary hearing, during which the citation will be presented to an administrative judge. The judge might ask Labor Department investigators questions.

“Zaloudek has the opportunity to make statements,” Schooler said.

Schooler said the judge will weigh mitigating and aggravating factors. Also, the lifespan of the business and the nature of the business are factors the judge will take into consideration, Schooler said.

Then, the judge will affirm, deny or reduce the fine.

If Zaloudek disagrees with the judge’s ruling, company officials can appeal the matter to district court, Schooler said.

The $750 fine for failing to comply with workers’ compensation law is the maximum fine allowed under current law. Labor Commissioner Mark Costello earlier said Zaloudek, which had not carried workers’ compensation insurance for five moths prior to the accident, obtained it five days afterward. Thus, labor officials could impose a fine of only $75 per employee per day.

Hornbeek did not return a call Thursday seeking comment. A male answered at Zaloudek Grain Co., but hung up when told the News & Eagle was calling.