Miner files discrimination suit against Walter Energy

A MINER in West Virginia has filed a lawsuit claiming he was discriminated against following an injury and laid off from his position as a result.

Donna Schmidt

According to the West Virginia Record legal journal, Terry Beard named Walter Energy and Maple Coal, the operator of the mine where he worked in 2009 and 2010, as defendants in his October 1 filing in Kanawha Circuit Court.

Beard, a miner with 28 years experience, said in his documentation that he commenced employment in July 2009 as an underground mechanic and roof bolter and was injured on the job in October 2010.

Because of the injury, for which he received an arm cast, the miner missed about 12 weeks of work and received workers’ compensation during that period.

Months later in April 2011, according to the Record, Beard was diagnosed with black lung disease and silicosis and filed for state occupational pneumoconiosis benefits.

The miner said in his suit that he was transferred to an outside position after filing for the benefits, a move made without his request.

On March 24 he was laid off due to “realignment”

He claims the named defendants targeted employees for lay-off who had health problems, injuries or were older but following the furloughs continued to bring on new employees.

In his state complaint Beard said he applied for the positions of roof bolter and scoop operator on June 28, after being specifically informed of roof bolter vacancies but he was not called back or contacted for an interview.

Instead, he claims, Walter and Maple hired younger workers with less experience.

The plaintiff is seeking compensatory and punitive damages and pre and post-judgment interest for an undisclosed amount for discrimination, as he feels his firing was in retaliation for his black lung benefits filing as well as his age and disability status – a violation of the West Virginia Human Rights Act.

According to the Record, Beard suffered lost wages, emotional and mental distress, aggravation, humiliation, embarrassment, anxiety, annoyance and inconvenience.

It also said the defendants discriminated against Beard for his workers’ compensation benefits application.

Beard is represented by Kristina Thomas Whiteaker and David Grubb in his litigation, formally known as Kanawha Circuit Court number 12-C-1957.

Circuit judge Jennifer Bailey will hear the case.

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