Thursday, June 21, 2012

Coal miner fired for whistleblowing about safety violations is reinstated to work by federal judge

A federal judge has ordered that coal miner Charles Scott Howard, 52, right, is entitled to return to work at Cumberland River Coal Co. after 13 months of alleging discrimination in federal court for his reporting on the company's violations. Administrative Law Judge Margaret Miller also ordered the company to pay Howard a $30,000 fine for discriminating against a whistleblower.

Howard was fired last year after he suffered a head injury while working. Several doctors deemed him fit to return to work, but he was fired anyway, he alleged, because the company didn't like that he brought safety violations in the mine where he worked to the attention of federal safety officials. Miller wrote in her decision that managers at Cumberland River and its parent company Arch Coal "waited until every doctor, including two neurosurgeons, two eye doctors, a psychiatrist and others found no impairment and agreed Howard could return to work" before a doctor working for the companies said Howard could no longer be a miner, The Associated Press's Brett Barrouquere reported. "I find that the mine sought out and received the opinion they were seeking and immediately upon receipt of that single opinion, terminated Howard's employment," Miller wrote.

Howard has been whistleblowing about unsafe mining conditions for years, and has been getting disciplined or fired after each occasion. This is the third time he's been reinstated by a judge. (Read more)

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