Miner sues employer on allegations of retaliation

By Carol Ostrow | Apr 22, 2015

MADISON — A Raleigh County coal miner filed a lawsuit against his employer for alleged retaliatory discrimination in a 2014 dispute.

Michael McKinney Jr. brought litigation against Gateway Eagle Coal Company LLC and Patriot Coal Corporation, headquartered in Delaware and operating in West Virginia, March 18 in Boone Circuit Court, claiming wrongful termination in 2014.

McKinney was employed by the defendants from Sept. 2013 to April 2014. According to the complaint, he periodically noted and attempted to report safety violations to his employer. The suit states that McKinney used paid sick leave to seek treatment for an illness in Jan. 2014, returned to work after about two weeks, and provided appropriate documentation to the defendants.

Gateway sent a letter to McKinney dated Jan. 21, 2014 regarding “Chronic/Excessive Absenteeism — Written Warning” to clarify his leave, according to the complaint. When the plaintiff expressed concern over safety issues to his supervisor on Feb. 21, the latter responded in a confrontational manner, according to the grievance.

The defendant subsequently requested the plaintiff’s medical records on March 27, 2014 regarding an alleged insurance discrepancy from late 2013 and Jan. 2014; and on or about April 1, 2014, suspended McKinney with intent to discharge on claims of falsifying his records, according to court documents.

The plaintiff argues that he was terminated for expressing his concern over safety issues that were being willfully disregarded. Claiming violation of state public policy, he cites loss of income, annoyance, distress and humiliation. The plaintiff seeks punitive damages, pre- and post-judgment interest, attorneys’ fees, and costs.

McKinney is represented by Steven Wolfe of Wolfe Law Office in Logan.

Boone Circuit Court case number: 15-C-52

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