Federal investigation and subsequent legal action resulted in the recovery of $175,000 in unpaid wages for 44 miners who were terminated from their jobs and were not compensated for their final paycheck after their employer declared bankruptcy.

The US Department of Labor has taken legal action to halt the sale of coal by a Charleston mining company until they pay their workers the wages they are owed. The department’s Wage and Hour Division discovered that Ben’s Creek Operations WV LLC laid off 44 miners in Matewan and failed to issue their final paycheck while filing for bankruptcy. The division found that the mine had produced over $3 million worth of coal during this time period, but the workers were not paid for their two weeks of work. The division’s District Director, John DuMont, stated that “payroll before profit” is a key principle in the Fair Labor Standards Act and that a bankruptcy filing does not excuse an employer from their obligation to pay their workers. The department’s Office of the Solicitor obtained a temporary restraining order to prevent the company from selling or moving the coal until the back wages are paid. The court issued a final order requiring the employer to pay all outstanding wages. Regional Solicitor Samantha Thomas emphasized that the department will use all necessary enforcement tools to ensure that workers are not deprived of their hard-earned wages. The investigation was conducted by the division’s Pittsburgh District Office and the case was litigated by senior trial attorneys from the department’s Office of the Solicitor in Philadelphia. Ben’s Creek Operations WV LLC is a subsidiary of the Ben’s Creek Group PLC, a London-based company that operates coal mines across North America. Workers and employers can contact the Wage and Hour Division with any questions, and the department can provide assistance in over 200 languages. This case serves as a reminder that the department is committed to protecting workers’ rights and will take action against employers who violate federal labor laws.  

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