New Elk Mine Agrees to Pay Former Employee in Discrimination Suit

The employee was terminated after he filed a complaint to MSHA for hazardous working conditions.

New Elk Coal Co. and the DOL’s Mine Safety and Health administration have reached a settlement over a discrimination complaint filed by a miner. The employee, terminated shortly after filing a hazard complaint will now be paid approximately $115,000 in retribution and MSHA will be paid $10,000 by the Colorado mine.

The complaint, filed in in April 2012, was in regard to hazardous conditions on a beltline that were not being addressed by the employee’s supervisor. After MSHA cited the company for these violations, the employee’s position and shift changed multiple times and in May 2012, the employee was terminated. The miner later filed a complaint against the mine for discrimination because he filed the hazard complaint.

"All miners, supervisors and contractors have the right to identify hazardous conditions and refuse unsafe work without fear of discrimination or retaliation," said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, in a statement on the DOL website. "They also have the right to be trained in the health and safety aspects of tasks, including recognizing hazards at the mine and the proper procedures for reporting those hazards."

MSHA agreed with the discrimination complaint and an administrative law judge ordered that the miner be reinstated. However, the parties allowed the miner to be paid seven month’s wages in lieu of reinstatement.

“In a separate case last January, the parties reached agreement that resolved a claim of discriminatory termination of a supervisor at the same mine,” according to the MSHA statement. “In that case, too, New Elk agreed to pay a civil penalty of $10,000 to MSHA, plus approximately $88,000 to the terminated employee. Additionally, the company agreed to provide company-wide training regarding miners' rights.”

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