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November 27, 2012
MSHA focusing increasingly on miner discrimination complaints

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) says it filed a record number of requests for temporary reinstatement on behalf of miners who complained of discrimination. During fiscal year 2012, MSHA filed 39 such requests with the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission.

By law a miner cannot be discharged, discriminated against, or interfered with because he or she has engaged in a protected activity such as filing a complaint, alleging a health and safety violation, or refusing to work under unsafe or unhealthy conditions.

“MSHA strongly encourages miners to exercise their rights under the Mine Act and maximize their involvement in monitoring safety and health conditions,” said MSHA chief Joseph A. Main. If the agency finds that a complaint is “not frivolously brought,” MSHA will, at the miner’s request, ask the Commission to order immediate reinstatement.

Discrimination and retaliation concerns came to light during congressional hearings in the wake of the 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine disaster. Statements from miners and family members of those who died indicated that mine workers had been reluctant to speak about safety concerns because of fear of management retaliation.

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