Miner files discrimination suit against Walter

A FORMER miner at a Walter Energy operation in West Virginia is suing the producer, claiming he was discriminated against.

Donna Schmidt

Donnie Roberts, who filed a complaint November 28 in Kanawha Circuit Court in Charleston, has named subsidiary Maple Coal and Danny Stickel as defendants, according to state legal journal the West Virginia Record.

In the suit documentation, Roberts said he worked for the operation from January 10, 2011 until October 25, 2012, during which time he was consistently a satisfactory performer who met his employer’s expectations.

However, according to the Record, the worker said he was discharged from his job because of his disability, perceived disability or the company’s failure to accommodate him, a violation of the West Virginia Human Rights Act.

No further details on Roberts’ claim were disclosed.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Carrie Webster, who will hear Roberts’ claims that the actions of the defendants caused him to suffer lost wages and benefits, and also resulted in indignity, embarrassment and humiliation.

Additionally, it will be alleged, those actions were willful, wanton and/or made with reckless disregard and/or reckless indifference to his rights.

Roberts is seeking compensatory damages along with pre-judgment interest.

Roberts’ case number is 12-C-2362. He is being represented by Mark Atkinson and Harry Hatfield.

The suit is the second in as many months for Maple Coal, located in Powellton. In early November, another miner filed a complaint that he was discriminated against following an injury and was laid off as a result.

According to Terry Beard’s October 1 lawsuit, he worked at the operation in 2009-10 and, following an on-the-job injury and subsequent diagnosis of black lung disease and silicosis, he was laid off due to “realignment”

He alleged Walter and Maple Coal targeted employees for lay-off who had health problems, injuries or were older, but continued to bring on new employees after this.

In his state complaint, according to an earlier report in the Record, he was seeking compensatory and punitive damages and pre and post-judgment interest for an undisclosed amount for discrimination, as he felt his firing was in retaliation to his black lung benefits filing as well as his age and disability status – a violation of the West Virginia Human Rights Act.

Circuit judge Jennifer Bailey will hear that case, registered as Kanawha Circuit Court number 12-C-1957.

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