Mine company wants employees phone complaint dismissed

By Harmon Marks | Feb 9, 2011

MADISON -- A mining company wants an employee's complaint over monitored phone calls dismissed.

MADISON -- A mining company wants an employee's complaint over monitored phone calls dismissed.

Newtown Energy filed a Motion To Dismiss a complaint by James C. Stewart that his personal telephone calls were illegally monitored in the underground Eagle Mine near Comfort.

Stewart, a Raleigh County resident, filed a complaint Dec. 27 saying his employer and Newtown's security firm agent intentionally monitored his phone conversations.

He seeks actual and punitive damages, court costs and pre- and post-judgment interest.

Part of his duties in the mine, Stewart says, was to monitor infrastructure and miners' locations. He says he was allowed to make personal calls while at work. His complaint says Newtown procured a security firm late last July "to intentionally monitor the plaintiffs telephone conversations," with neither Stewart nor persons he spoke with aware that calls were being monitored.

Stewart complains that "no lawful exception to the statutory prohibition against the interception of oral, electronic and/or wire communication exists so as to permit Newtown to intercept said communications."

The coal company countered Feb. 1 for dismissal of the complaint, elaborating, in part, the following: "The telephone at issue is the only telephone line into the vitally important safety infrastructure building ... at no time was any employee informed that personal telephone calls could be made ... While monitoring these calls, Mr. Stewart was heard, on numerous occasions, to be making drug deals and threats regarding his illegal procurement of drugs."

Newtown says its drug policy provided express agreement "to be searched upon reasonable suspicion of drug use within his workplace included his consent to be subject to phone monitoring upon reasonable suspicion that he was using company phones to engage in illegal drug activity."

Stewart is represented by Charleston attorney Douglas V. Atkins, and Newtown is represented by Thomas V. Flaherty and Eric T. Frye of Charleston. The case is before Judge William S. Thompson.

Boone Circuit Court Case number: 10-C-290

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