Whistleblower in a Coal Mine

Remember the story of the miners who died in the West Virginia coal mine before the story was overshadowed by the latest fossil fuel debacle? Well, a whistleblower has filed a federal whistleblower complaint claiming that Massey fired him in retaliation for pointing out safety violations at mines in West Virginia–including the one in which an explosion occurred on April 5th,  killing 29 miners. The whistleblower, Ricky Lee Campbell, is a sort of coal-dusted Cassandra.

Campbell filed a complaint with the Labor Department alleging that he was fired for his role in the federal investigation as well as for safety complaints he made to mine management.  Federal administrative law Judge L. Zane Gill agreed with Campbell, stating that there was “substantial evidence to support a reasonable cause to believe” that Campbell’s complaints led to his firing.  The administrative law judge ordered Massey to temporarily reinstate Campbell, and the ball is now in the Labor Department’s court to file a complaint seeking permanent reinstatement.

The harsh world of mining seems to lend itself to a wide array of egregious violations. If you’re still fired up about mines, here’s a shameless plug for the film North Country, which is the semi-fictionalized story of a group of women who had the guts to stand up to a mining corporation and bring a sex discrimination lawsuit despite outrageous threats and harassment. The lawsuit at the center of the film is based on Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Co. The case was filed in 1988 on behalf of Lois Jensen and other female workers at EVTAC mine in Eveleth, Minnesota. Jensen began working at the mine in 1975 and endured outrageous sexual harassment. She quit working at the mine in 1992, and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder shortly thereafter. It wasn’t until 1998, when another trial was set to begin following years of protracted litigation, that the company settled with 15 female plaintiffs for $3.5 million.

Both the Massey mine situation as well as the Eveleth sexual harassment suit illustrate that even in harsh, remote environments such as mines, concerned individuals can make a difference by letting their voices be heard. No matter how far underground you may be, there is always a path to the courtroom.

This article is brought to you by the QTT, the epicenter for whistleblowers and people interested in the False Claims Act, Qui Tam Provisions, and Medicare and Medicaid fraud. To discuss a potential case, please call Eric Young at 1 (800) 590-4116.