Thursday, November 05, 2015

Murray Energy accused of intimidation tactics to keep employees from reporting safety concerns

The U.S. Labor Department has accused Murray Energy Corp., the largest coal mining company in the U.S., of trying to silence whistleblowers by threatening job security at Appalachian mines, Cole Stangler reports for International Business Times. In response to miners' filing anonymous complaints with federal agencies, CEO Bob Murray allegedly visited West Virginia mines and told workers they should be grateful to have jobs and told them to imagine what it would be like not to have one.

The Department of Labor "alleges that the company interfered with miners' rights under the Mine Safety and Health Act to lodge confidential safety reports with federal regulators," Stangler writes. "In a complaint, regulators say Murray Energy chided 3,500 workers for making too many confidential safety complaints to regulators and—at one of the mines—threatened to retaliate by closing down operations." (Murray Energy map: Company-owned mines. There are also mines in Utah)
Workers said the company wants employees to come to them with complaints but that nothing is ever done about those complaints, Stangler writes. "According to documents obtained by International Business Times, lawyers with the Labor Department criticized Murray in October for personally creating 'an atmosphere of intimidation' at five West Virginia mines. Regulators expounded on their accusations in a post-hearing brief that stems from a lawsuit they filed against the company in July." Murray officials deny the allegations, but "all five of the West Virginia mines included in the complaint have rates of 'significant and substantial' health and safety violations greater than the national average."

"The case now stands before an administrative law judge at the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission in Washington, the federal court system for mine safety violations," Stangler writes. "If found responsible for interfering with miners’ rights, the company could owe $120,000 in penalties sought by regulators. In addition to fines, CEO Bob Murray could be forced to personally read notices that inform workers of their whistleblowing rights. IBT obtained copies of the complaint and subsequent court filings through a Freedom of Information Act request." (Read more)

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