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Charles Scott Howard decision

Charles Scott Howard decision

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FEDERALMINESAFETYANDHEALTHREVIEWCOMMISSION
OfficeofAdministrativeLawJudges
72119thSt.,Suite443Denver,CO80202-2500Office:(303)
844-5266/Fax:
(303)844-5268
June15~2012SECRETARYOFLABOR~o/b/oCHARLESSCOTTHOWARD~Complainant,DISCRIMINATIONPROCEEDINGDocketNo.KENT2011-1379-Dv.CUMBERLANDRIVERCOALCOMPANY,Respondent.Mine:BandMillNo.2MineID15-18705
DECISION
Appearances:MarySueTaylor,OfficeoftheSolicitor,Nashville,Tennessee,onbehalfoftheSecretaryofLabor;TonyOppegard,WesAddington,onbehalfofComplainant;WillaPerlmutter,GlenGrant,Crowell
&
Moring,WashingtonD.C.,onbehalfofRespondent.Before:JudgeMillerThiscaseisbeforemeonaComplaintofDiscriminationbroughtbytheSecretaryofLabor,onbehalfofCharlesScottHowardagainstCumberlandRiverCoalCompany,pursuanttosection105(c)oftheFederalMineSafetyandHealthActof1977,asamended,30U.S.C.§815(c)(the"MineAct"or"Act").ThepartiespresentedtestimonyandevidenceatahearinginPikeville,KentuckycommencingonMarch14,2012.
I.BACKGROUND
CumberlandRiverCoalCompany("CRCC"),Respondent,operatestheBandMillNo2mine(the"mine")nearEolia,LetcherCounty,Kentucky.(Tr.167-168).CRCChiredComplainant,CharlesScottHoward("Howard"),onMarch21,2005.Howardhasheldvariouspositionsatthemineandhismostrecentpositionwasasafaceworkerinthebeltcorridor.
I
(Tr.82).HowardworkedinthatpositionuntilJuly,2010,whenhewasinjuredonthejob.CRCCdischargedHowardfromhisemploymentonMay16,2011afterreceivinganotefromDr.RobertGranacher,amendinghisfirstreport,andexplainingthatHowardcouldnotreturntoworkasacoalminerduetothenatureofhisinjury.However,Howardhadseenanumberofphysicians,includingtwoneurosurgeons,andallagreedthatHowardcouldreturntoworkwithoutrestriction.
1
Howardwasclassifiedasfaceworker,buthedidnotworkatthefaceorinanareaproducingcoal.Atthetimeofhisinjury,Howard'sjobdutiesprimarilyinvolvedworkingonatrack-load,pickingupcoalanddumpingitonthebelt.1
 
HowardfiledacomplaintofdiscriminationwithMSHAshortlyafterbeingterminatedfromhisemploymentonMay16,2011.Howardallegedthathewasterminatedforengaginginactivityprotectedundersection105(c)(2)oftheMineAct,30U.S.C.§815(c)(2),onnumerousoccasionsfromApril2007untilshortlybeforehistermination.TheSecretaryofLabor("Secretary")seeksa$20,000.00civilpenaltyforCRCC'sviolationoftheAct.Thepartiesenteredintoanumberofstipulations,includingthatHowardengagedinanumberofprotectedactivitiesbeginninginApril,2007andcontinuinguntilMay,2011.(Tr.8).ThepartiesfurtheragreethatHowardwasthesubjectofanadverseactionbyCRCCwhenhewasterminatedinMay,2011.ThepartiesstipulatedthatCRCCisamineoperatorsubjecttotheprovisionsoftheMineActandthattheCommissionhasjurisdictiontohearthiscase.AdditionalstipulationsincludethatCRCCisalargeoperator,thatHowardisaminerasdefinedbytheAct,andthatthepaymentofthepenaltywillnotaffectCRCC'sabilitytocontinueinbusiness.(Tr.IO).
H.STATEMENTOFLAW
Section105(c)(I)oftheAct,30U.S.c.§815(c)(I),providesthataminercannotbedischarged,discriminatedagainst,orinterferedwithintheexerciseofhisstatutoryrightsbecause:(1)he"hasfiledormadeacomplaintunderorrelatedtothisAct,includingacomplaint...ofanallegeddangerorsafetyorhealthviolation;"(2)he"isthesubjectofmedicalevaluationsandpotentialtransferunderastandardpublishedpursuanttosection101;"(3)he"hasinstitutedorcausedtobeinstitutedanyproceedingunderorrelatedtothisActorhastestifiedorisabouttotestifyinanysuchproceeding;"or(4)hehasexercised"onbehalfofhimselforothers...anystatutoryrightaffordedbythisAct."Inordertoestablishaprimafaciecaseofdiscriminationundersection105(c)(1),acomplainingminermustshow:(1)thatheengagedinprotectedactivity;and(2)thattheadverseactionhecomplainsofwasmotivatedatleastpartiallybythatactivity.
Driessen
v,
NevadaGoldfields,Inc.,
20FMSHRC324,328(Apr.1998);
SecretaryonbehalfofRobinette
v.
UnitedCastleCoalCo.,
3FMSHRC803(Apr.1981);
SecretaryonbehalfofPasula
v.
ConsolidationCoalCo.,
2FMSHRC2786(Oct.1980),
rev'donothergroundssubnom.ConsolidationCoalCo.
v.
Marshall,
663F.2d1211(3rdCir.1981).Factorstobeconsideredinassessingwhetheraprimafaciecaseexistsincludetheoperator'sknowledgeoftheprotectedactivity,hostilityor"animus"towardstheprotectedactivity,timingoftheadverseactioninrelationtotheprotectedactivity,anddisparatetreatment.
SecretaryonbehalfofChacon
v.
PhelpsDodgeCorp.,3
FMSHRC2508(Nov.1981).Theoperatormayrebuttheprimafaciecasebyshowingeitherthatnoprotectedactivityoccurredorthattheadverseactionwasinnopartmotivatedbytheprotectedactivity.
Pasula,2
FMSHRCat2799-800.
If
theoperatorcannotrebuttheprimafaciecaseinthismanner,it,nevertheless,maydefendaffirmativelybyprovingthatitwasalsomotivatedbytheminer'sunprotectedactivityandwouldhavetakentheadverseactionfortheunprotectedactivityalone.
Id.
at2800;
Robinette,
3FMSHRCat817-18;seealso
EasternAssoc.CoalCorp.
v.
FMSHRC,
813F.2d639,642(4thCir.1987).
2
 
Thefindingsoffactthatfollowarebasedontherecordasawholeandmycarefulobservationofthewitnessesduringtheirtestimony.Inresolvinganyconflictsintestimony,Ihavetakenintoconsiderationtheinterestsofthewitnesses,corroborationorlackthereof,andconsistenciesorinconsistenciesineachwitness'testimonyandbetweenthetestimoniesofwitnesses.Inevaluatingthetestimonyofeachwitness,Ihavereliedonhisorherdemeanor.Anyfailuretoprovidedetailoneachwitness'stestimonyisnottobedeemedafailureonmyparttohavefullyconsideredit.Thefactthatsomeevidenceisnotdiscusseddoesnotindicatethatitwasnotconsidered.
SeeCraig
v.
Apfel,
212F.3d433,436(8thCir.2000)(administrativelawjudgeisnotrequiredtodiscussallevidenceandfailuretocitespecificevidencedoesnotmeanitwasnotconsidered).III.FINDINGOFFACTANDANALYSISa.ProtectedActivitiesInordertosustainhisdiscriminationcomplaint,HowardmustfirstdemonstratethatheengagedinanactivityoractivitiesthatareprotectedbySection105(c)oftheMineAct.TherecordbeforemeclearlyestablishesthatHowardengagedinprotectedactivitiesandthepartieshaveagreedandstipulatedthatHowardengagedinanumberofprotectedactivities.Asaninitialmatter,Howardengagedinprotectedactivitywhenhefiled105(c)complaintswithMSHAoverthecourseoffouryears.
SeeSecretaryonbehalfofStrattis
v.
leG
Beckley,LLC,
32FMSHRC614,616(June2010)(ALJ)(holdingthatfilinga105(c)discriminationcomplaintisaprotectedactivityforwhichoperatorsarebarredfromretaliatingagainst).Inthemonths,andevenyears,beforeCRCCterminatedtheemploymentofHoward,heengagedinnumerousprotectedactivities.AsearlyasMarch,2007,HowardtestifiedbeforeaCongressionalcommitteeaboutsafetyissues.InApril,2007hemadeavideotapeofleakingmineseals.ThevideowasthesubjectofanemailfromValerieLeetoanumberofCCRCandArchCoal
2
managementpersonnel,andanemailfromMikeKafoury,counselforArch,toanumberofotherswithalinktothevideo.Sec'yEx.120;(Tr.140).Afterbeingreprimanded,HowardfiledhisfirstdiscriminationcasewithMSHA.HowardeventuallyfiledfourseparatediscriminationcomplaintswithMSHA,raisedsafetyissueswithhissupervisorsonmany,manyoccasions,filedcivillawsuitsbasedupondiscriminatoryactions,calledMSHAtomakesafetycomplaints,askedMSHAtoconductcertainsafetyinspections,filedgrievancesnamingspecificmanagersforfailingtoprotectminers,andengagedinothersafety-relatedactivityfrom2007untilMay,2011whenthepresentcasewasfiled.Sec'yExs.84and110;HowardEx.3.
In
May,2011,justbeforehewasterminated,HowardfiledaciviilawsuitagainstCRCCasaresultofallegedsafetyissues.AlloftheseactionsclearlyqualifyasactivitiesprotectedunderSection105(c)(l)asexercisingastatutoryrightaffordedbytheAct.Thereisnodoubtthateverypersoninvolvedinthiscaseand,indeed,everypersonattheCRCCmineswasawareofall,orsome,ofHoward'sprotectedactivity,eitherthroughthemediaorthroughdiscussionsatworkandinthecommunity.
2
ArchCoalistheparentcompanyofCRCC.
3

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