Former UBB foreman says he was fired for raising safety issues

MADISON -- A former underground foreman at the Upper Big Branch Mine claims he was constructively discharged in February 2010 because he raised safety issues.

Richard Hutchens complains defendant coal companies' actions were discriminatory and retaliatory, saying he "consistently performed his duties as a Continuous Miner Section Foreman in a satisfactory manner and met the reasonable expectations ..."

His suit, filed Oct. 14 in Boone Circuit Court by Charleston attorney Mark A. Atkinson and Stephen P. New of Beckley, names Alpha Natural Resources Services, LLC; Performance Coal Co., and Alpha Appalachia Services, Inc. as defendants and seeks jury trial.

Hutchens says he complained to supervisors on numerous occasions about inadequate ventilation "and was forced to shut down production ... to 'down' equipment because said equipment was unsafe ..." He also mentions complaining that rock dusting was inadequate.

"In retaliation for raising these safety issues," Hutchens elaborates, he "was called obscene names in front of his men, and threatened that he would be fired."

He wants jury awards for damages relating to lost wages and benefits, back and front pay; indignity, embarrassment and humiliation, and punitive damages in an amount to be determined. Also, he asks for pre-judgment interest, attorney fees and court costs, plus such other relief court deems just and equitable.

Case is projected for October 2012 trial before Judge William S. Thompson.

Boone Circuit Court case number: 11-C-205

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