Harlan County coal company accused of discriminating against miner

HARLAN COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ) – The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) filed a discrimination complaint against a Harlan County coal company, claiming it wrongly fired a miner for raising a safety concern, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The report says the complaint asks that the miner, George Rice, be reinstated and a $15,000 penalty against the company, JRL Coal Inc.

The company has not formally responded to the complaint.  The company’s attorney told the Lexington Herald-Leader she couldn’t comment on pending litigation.

MSHA has taken up the complaint on Rice’s behalf before the federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, according to the newspaper report.

Rice was working at the company’s Magnum #1 mine in February when he was assigned to run a piece of equipment called a section scoop, which had a low amount of clearance under the canopy, according to the report.

Rice had trouble getting in the scoop because of his size and the low clearance.  Rice also said it was hard for him to operate the controls and see what he was doing, increasing the danger of an accident in the underground mine, according to the report.

After Rice told the mine safety director he couldn’t safely operate the scoop, the director had him operate another piece of equipment, according to the report.

In early February, a foreman told Rice to go back on the section scoop.  When Rice said he couldn’t operate the equipment safely, the foreman sent him home and told him to discuss the issue with the mine superintendent the next day, according to the report.

When Rice did that, the superintendent said he would have to check with the foreman and didn’t assign Rice to any job, according to the complaint covered in the report.

Rice asked about his job status on Feb. 8, 9, 10 and 12 without getting a response, according to the report.  That’s when he filed a complaint with MSHA alleging he effectively had been fired for raising a safety concern, according to the report.

The company is paying Rice while the complaint is pending, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.



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