A federal administrative law judge in Washington, D.C., has ordered Continental Cement Co. to pay a $17,500 penalty after the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) determined it punished a worker for acting as the miners’ representative.
Under the Mine Safety and Health Act, the miners’ representative, an employee designated to accompany and provide information to MSHA inspectors during mine inspections, shall “suffer no loss in pay” for this work.
An MSHA investigation determined that Continental Cement paid the worker the hourly rate of a laborer on multiple days in March and April 2020 when she accompanied inspectors at the Hannibal, Mo., operation, instead of the wages she should have received as a mobile equipment operator. As a result, the company shortchanged the worker $388 in wages.
Continental Cement argued it did not have to pay the miner the higher wage since they were not actually operating mobile equipment. However, Administrative Law Judge William B. Moran rejected this argument.
“The Mine Safety and Health Administration investigation found Continental Cement clearly discriminated against the worker for serving as the miners’ representative,” said MSHA District Manager Robert Simms in Madisonville, Ky. “Federal discrimination laws exist to protect workers from penalties for serving as safety and health representatives while on the job. The judge’s decision sends the message that retaliation is a costly mistake for employers.”
In addition to the penalty, the judge ordered Continental Cement to pay the back wages; expunge any adverse information related to the whistleblower complaint from the employee’s personnel record; and to post information on miner’s rights in employee areas.