MSHA Seeks Reinstatement and Compensation for Miner Whistleblower
May 25, 2012 - Comments Off
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (“MSHA”) recently filed a complaint with the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission against Ferraiolo Construction seeking reinstatement and compensation for a former employee of the company that MSHA found to have been unlawfully retaliated against in violation of the employee-protection provision of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (“the Mine Act”). The employee-protection provision of the Mine Act protects miners, their representatives, and applicants for employment from retaliation for engaging in safety and/or health-related activities or refusing to engage in unsafe acts.
The issue of potential unlawful retaliation was initially brought to MSHA’s attention in November 2011 after the miner filed a complaint alleging that he had been unlawfully terminated from the Thomaston, Maine-based Portable Pioneer Plant after voicing a series of safety concerns to the company. After investigating the complaint, MSHA concluded that the miner had engaged in protected activity when he alerted the company to unresolved safety problems and refused to turn on the plant’s generator until the company installed the required safety guards. The Company appealed MSHA’s finding to the Commission.
MSHA seeks a finding from the Commission that Ferraiolo’s discharge of the miner constitutes unlawfully retaliation in violation of the employee protection provision of the Mine Act. The employee-protection provision of the Mine Act is a vital source of protection for employees in the industry. “Every miner has the right to identify hazardous conditions and refuse unsafe work without fear of discrimination or retaliation,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary for mine safety and health, according to an article on Occupational Health & Safety online. To that end, Mr. Main added, “[t]he Mine Act allows workers to exercise this right without fear of being fired, demoted, harassed, transferred, refused employment, or suffering any loss of wages.”
The employee-protection provisions of the Mine Act are important not only for the whistleblower provisions they provide to miners throughout the country, but also because Congress looked to these safeguards when crafting the whistleblower-protection provisions of nearly two dozen laws that protect workers in other industries. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (“OSHA”) Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the provisions of twenty-one statutes protecting employees who report violations of various workplace safety issues, including airline safety, environmental safety, food safety and securities law. As one of the older whistleblower protection provisions, the employee-protection provision in the Mine Act provides the basis for many of the employee protection provisions that OSHA currently enforces. For more information on whistleblower law, visit the Whistleblower Page on our website.