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Federal judge orders Hannibal cement mine to pay $17.5K penalty for shorting pay of worker who assisted safety inspectors

Worker paid less per hour in violation of workplace retaliation protections

HANNIBAL, MO – A federal administrative law judge in Washington, D.C., has ordered a Hannibal cement company to pay a worker the company penalized for assisting federal safety investigators during a site visit.

On March 1, Administrative Law Judge William B. Moran also ordered Continental Cement Company to pay a $17,500 penalty after the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration determined the company punished the worker for acting as the miners’ representative, an employee representative designated to accompany and provide information to MSHA inspectors during mine inspections. Under the Mine Safety and Health Act, the miners’ representative shall “suffer no loss in pay” for this work.

An MSHA investigation determined that Continental Cement paid the worker the hourly rate of a laborer on multiple days in March and April 2020 when she accompanied inspectors at the Hannibal mine, instead of the wages she should have received as a mobile equipment operator, the work she would have been doing had she not been acting as the miners’ representative. As a result, the company shortchanged the worker $388 in wages. Continental Cement argued it did not have to pay the miner the higher wage since they were not actually operating mobile equipment. 

Judge Moran rejected this argument. He determined Continental Cement’s actions resulted in a loss in pay because of her miners’ representative duties -- in violation of provisions of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act that protects miners, representatives of miners and applicants for employment from retaliation for engaging in safety and health-related activities. These activities include identifying hazards, asking for MSHA inspections, or refusing to engage in an unsafe act.  

“The Mine Safety and Health Administration investigation found Continental Cement clearly discriminated against the worker for serving as the miners’ representative,” said MSHA District Manager Robert Simms in Madisonville, Kentucky. “Federal discrimination laws exist to protect workers from penalties for serving as safety and health representatives while on the job. The judge’s decision sends the message that retaliation is a costly mistake for employers.”

In addition to paying back wages, the judge ordered Continental Cement to expunge any adverse information related to the whistleblower complaint from the employee’s personnel record and to post information on miner’s rights in employee areas. The company must pay the penalty to the U.S. Treasury.

MSHA enforces the discrimination provisions of the Mine Safety and Health Act.

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Agency

Mine Safety & Health Administration
Date March 7, 2022

Release Number
22-386-KAN

Media Contact: Scott Allen
Phone Number 312-353-4727
Email allen.scott@dol.gov

Media Contact: Rhonda Burke
Phone Number 312-353-4807
Email burke.rhonda@dol.gov