Main hails appeals court decision as miner victory

By |  December 10, 2012

MSHA Assistant Secretary of Labor Joe Main called a U.S. Court of Appeals rejection of a worker discrimination case a resounding victory for miners and their right to identify hazardous conditions that put themselves and others in danger.

Main made his comment in reference to a case in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit rejected an appeal of Cordero Mining LLC. The court affirmed a Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission law judge’s earlier decision in which the judge ordered Cordero Mining to reinstate a discharged employee to her former position, compensate her for lost wages and benefits, and remove from her personnel files any references to the discharge. The court also upheld a $40,000 penalty Cordero Mining must pay.

The case stems back to May 2010, when a shovel operator with 28 years of experience as a miner filed a complaint with MSHA alleging that Cordero Mining terminated her employment in retaliation for her repeated safety complaints. The miner claimed her unlawful discharge had a chilling effect on the willingness of other miners to raise safety issues at the mine.

In its decision, the appeals court found substantial evidence to support the administrative law judge’s finding of discrimination and his decision to award full back pay. In addition, the court found that the $40,000 penalty was not excessive or an abuse of discretion.

Cordero has until Dec. 31 to petition the court for a rehearing.

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