Administrative Law Judge Finds for Mining Whistleblower
January 24, 2012 - Comments Off
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (“MSHA”) of the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued a press release last week stating that an administrative law judge with the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (“MSHRC”) has ordered Cordero Mining LLC of Gillette, Wyo., to pay a $40,000 civil penalty as well as reinstate an employee to her former position, provide compensation for lost wages and remove personnel files referencing the unlawful discharge. The employee, Cindy L. Clapp of Wyoming, alleged that she had been terminated in retaliation for repeated safety complaints.
Section 105(c) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (“FMSHA”) provides 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. Congress used the anti-retaliation provisions from the FMSHA as a model for many of the whistleblower laws passed over the past 30 years that protect workers who complain about nuclear safety or environmental issues.
Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, had the following comment: “Every miner has the right to identify hazardous conditions and refuse unsafe work without fear of discrimination or retaliation.” Main continued, “The Mine Act allows miners to exercise this right without fear of being fired, demoted, harassed, transferred, refused employment or suffering any loss of wages.”