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MSHA News Release: [01/29/2013]
Contact:   Amy Louviere
Phone:    (202) 693-9423
Release Number 13-167-NAT

US Labor Department's MSHA continues increased emphasis on miner discrimination complaints
46 requests for temporary reinstatement made in 2012

ARLINGTON, Va. — The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration filed 46 requests for temporary reinstatement during the 2012 calendar year, more than double any previous year, with the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission on behalf of miners who submitted complaints of discrimination in the form of a suspension, layoff, discharge or other adverse action. Additionally, the department filed 34 complaints alleging mine safety discrimination during 2012, also more than in any previous year.

The department filed 101 temporary reinstatement requests in calendar years 2009 - 2012, or an average of 25 per year, compared to an average of six per year 1993 - 2008. Additionally, the department filed a total of 105 discrimination complaints with the commission 2009 - 2012, compared to 63 during the prior four-year period.

According to Section 105(c) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, a miner cannot be discharged, discriminated against or interfered with in the exercise of statutory rights because he or she has engaged in a protected activity such as filing a complaint alleging a health or safety violation, or refusing to work under unsafe or unhealthy conditions.

"MSHA urges miners to exercise their rights, and actively participate in monitoring safety and health conditions," said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "We take these rights under the Mine Act very seriously and will vigorously investigate all discrimination complaints."

Under the Mine Act, if MSHA finds that a miner's complaint is "not frivolously brought," the agency, on behalf of the miner, will ask the commission to order immediate reinstatement for the miner while the case is pending.

Issues related to discrimination and retaliation of miners came to light at congressional hearings related to the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, where there was testimony that some miners were reluctant to complain about safety conditions due to fear of reprisals from management. MSHA obtained similar evidence in its investigation into the causes of the mine explosion.

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