The Department of Labor has announced that it has reached a settlement with Comunidad Agricola Bianchi Inc., a Puerto Rican mining company. Comunidad Agricola Bianchi Inc. had recently terminated an employee who reported unsafe working conditions to MSHA and were subsequently fined for wrongfully terminating that employee.
From the DOL release:
In August 2009, MSHA received an anonymous hazard complaint raising concerns about safety issues at the mine, including details about an unreported June 2009 accident at the mine involving Chaparro. As a result, MSHA launched a hazard complaint investigation. The same day that MSHA spoke with Chaparro about his accident, the mine superintendent fired him.
In a complaint filed with the Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, MSHA sought a finding that Chaparro was unlawfully discriminated against and discharged in violation of Section 105(c)(1) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, which states that miners, their representatives and applicants for employment are protected from retaliation for engaging in safety and/or health-related activities, such as identifying hazards, asking for MSHA inspections or refusing to engage in an unsafe act. The complaint also sought Chaparro’s reinstatement to his position or a comparable one, $6,000 in back pay, all employment benefits, all medical and hospital benefits, and any and all other damages suffered and incurred by Chaparro as a result of the discriminatory discharge, as well as a $15,000 civil money penalty.
“The Mine Act is clear,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “Miners have a right to participate in an MSHA investigation, and they may not be fired, demoted, harassed, transferred, refused employment or suffer any loss of wages for exercising their right. Meanwhile, my department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration will continue to vigorously investigate all discriminatory complaints.”
Submitted by Andrew Fatato