After being fired by Cumberland River Coal Company last year, Charles Scott Howard sued, alleging that he was fired for blowing the whistle on the company’s safety issues. On Friday, a court agreed. From the Huffington Post:
A federal judge ordered Friday that Howard’s company immediately reinstate him at the mine and pay a $30,000 fine for discriminating against a whistleblower. The sharply worded decision said managers at Cumberland River, as well as its parent company, coal giant Arch Coal, went to great lengths to find a reason to fire Howard after he brought his mine to the attention of federal safety officials.
“It is obvious that [Cumberland River] worked diligently to end Howard’s employment,” wrote Margaret A. Miller, an administrative law judge for the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission. “The discrimination against Howard ran through [Cumberland River] and its parent, Arch, at the highest management levels.” …
In 2007, Howard recorded video of faulty seals in the mine that was presented to the Mine Safety and Health Administration. When he suffered a head injury on the job, the court determined that his employer unlawfully used the injury as an excuse to fire him.
Howard’s complaint was brought by the U.S. Labor Department, which was represented by attorney Mary Sue Taylor. The department recommended that a $20,000 penalty be levied against Cumberland River, but the judge instead bumped it up to $30,000. Per standard procedure, Miller also ordered that Cumberland River post a notice of the ruling so that it’s visible to every employee at the mine, “explaining that the company has been found to have discriminated against an employee, that such discrimination will be remedied and that it will not occur in the future.”
Howard said he will continue to speak up about dangers in mining, regardless of what trouble it may bring him.
It’s also brought him some fame. The video below is a folk song dedicated to him.
Get Grist in your inbox