MSHA Settles Discrimination Suit against Puerto Rico Mine Operator

In the settlement, the company agreed to permanently reinstate the worker to his job at the mine and to pay the full $6,000 in back wages, as well as the full $15,000 penalty.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) recently announced that it has negotiated a settlement agreement with Comunidad Agricola Bianchi Inc. of San Juan, Puerto Rico, in a discrimination case involving a miner employed by the company's operation in Rincon, Puerto Rico. Jose A. Chaparro was fired from his job shortly after cooperating in an MSHA hazard complaint investigation at the mine.

In August 2009, MSHA received an anonymous hazard complaint raising concerns about safety issues at the mine, including details about an unreported June 2009 accident at the mine involving Chaparro. As a result, MSHA launched a hazard complaint investigation. The same day that MSHA spoke with Chaparro about his accident, the mine superintendent fired him.

In a complaint filed with the Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, MSHA sought a finding that Chaparro was unlawfully discriminated against and discharged in violation of Section 105(c)(1) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, which states that miners, their representatives, and applicants for employment are protected from retaliation for engaging in safety and/or health-related activities, such as identifying hazards, asking for MSHA inspections, or refusing to engage in an unsafe act. The complaint also sought Chaparro's reinstatement to his position or a comparable one, $6,000 in back pay, all employment benefits, all medical and hospital benefits, and any and all other damages suffered and incurred by Chaparro as a result of the discriminatory discharge, as well as a $15,000 civil money penalty.

Following a hearing in February 2010, a judge ordered Chaparro temporarily reinstated to his job at the mine. In a second amended complaint, MSHA brought a claim of post-reinstatement retaliation against Comunidad Agricola Bianchi Inc. and three individual representatives of the mine.

In settlement, the company agreed to permanently reinstate Chaparro to his job at the mine and to pay the full $6,000 in back wages due to Chaparro, as well as the full $15,000 penalty. The mine operator also agreed that it would not unlawfully discriminate against any miner in its employ for engaging in protected activity.

"The Mine Act is clear," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "Miners have a right to participate in an MSHA investigation, and they may not be fired, demoted, harassed, transferred, refused employment, or suffer any loss of wages for exercising their right. Meanwhile, my department's Mine Safety and Health Administration will continue to vigorously investigate all discriminatory complaints."

Download Center

HTML - No Current Item Deck
  • Free Safety Management Software Demo

    IndustrySafe Safety Management Software helps organizations to improve safety by providing a comprehensive toolset of software modules to help businesses identify trouble spots; reduce claims, lost days, OSHA fines; and more.

  • Comply with OSHA’s Electronic Recordkeeping Requirements

    Collect relevant incident data and generate accurate OSHA 300, 300A, and 301 regulatory reports, including 300A CSV files for easy electronic submission to OSHA.

  • Complete Online Safety Training Courses

    Deliver state-of-the art, online safety training courses to your organization with IndustrySafe Training Management Software. Generate reports to track training compliance and automatically notify learners of upcoming or overdue classes.

  • Easy to Use Safety Inspection App

    Conduct inspections on the go with IndustrySafe’s mobile app. Complete safety audits at job sites and remote locations—with or without web access.

  • Track Key Safety Performance Indicators

    IndustrySafe’s Dashboard Module allows organizations to easily track safety KPIs and metrics. Gain increased visibility into your business’ operations and safety data.

  • Industry Safe
comments powered by Disqus
Live From Safety