CHARLESTON –- A gay coal miner is suing Spartan Mining Company, a Massey subsidiary, after he claims his co-workers in several of the mines have repeatedly harassed him because of his sexual orientation.
Randy Thomas, a mine foreman, also was named as a defendant in the suit.
Since 2005, Sam Hall has worked for a number of the defendants' coal mines and claims he was subjected to verbal abuse and invective and lewd gestures by his supervisors and co-workers, which continued even after he complained to management, according to a complaint filed Dec. 8 in Kanawha Circuit Court.
Hall claims he first worked at the Winifrede Mine from November 2005 until June 2007, which was his first mining job as a "redhat." While on this job, he and a co-worker went horseback riding, to which the superintendent, Scott Lansenese, commented that Hall had a "'broke back mountain' moment with the co-worker."
He claims Lansenese and Martin Johnson, who was Hall's boss at the site, continued to harass him with numerous taunts about his private sexual preferences.
The alleged harassment continued at Spartan's No. 130 Mine, where Hall began working in June 2007, according to the suit.
Hall claims Mark Delung, a chief electrician, used homophobic slurs and wrote them on Hall's dinner bucket and the mine's power center.
When he complained, and management told Delung to stop, the harassment escalated, including vandalism of Hall's car, where co-workers attached a sign that read, "I like little boys," according to the suit.
When Hall went to work at No. 2 Gas Mine, he was again submitted to abuse, according to the suit.
Co-workers allegedly shook their penises at Hall underground, and when they were told to stop or be fired, the situation escalated, with slurs being written on his locker.
For three months in early 2009, Hall worked at No. 5 Block Mine, where the superintendent knew him from the Winifrede mine and would laugh at the abuse directed at Hall, according to the suit.
Hall claims he became worried when the slurs escalated to violent threats.
In April 2010, Hall returned to the No. 2 Gas Mine, where Thomas engaged in persistent harassment, according to the suit and Carl Lucas, a mine superintendent, did nothing to stop the abuse.
Eventually, Hall met with Spartan Mining Co. president John Jones, vice president Larry Ward and human resources director Kyle Bane, according to the suit. After promising to take care of the issue, they suspended Thomas for three days and transferred Hall to the Slab Camp Mine, where he continues to face threats and harassment, according to the suit.
Hall claims Spartan Mining Co. and its management created an oppressive and hostile work environment and made no effort to resolve physical threats based on his sexual preference.
Hall is seeking damages for loss of wages and benefits; damages for emotional distress and anxiety; damages for humiliation, embarrassment and outrageous conduct; and punitive damages. He is being represented by Roger D. Forman and Daniel T. Lattanzi.
The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Louis Bloom.
Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 10-C-2202