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West Virginia mining company that stiffed workers ordered to pay $175K in back wages

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A West Virginia coal mining company that tried to stiff 44 miners of their last paycheck after filing for bankruptcy has been ordered to pay more than $175,000 in back wages.

The Charleston, W.Va.,-based Ben’s Creek Operations informed workers of the layoff on April 9, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy five days later, and then failed to issue the miners their last paycheck as required on April 19 for two weeks of work from March 31 to April 13.

During that time period, the division determined the mine had produced about 40,000 tons of metallurgical coal worth more than $3 million, the U.S. Department of Labor reported on Tuesday.

Ben’s Creek Operations is a subsidiary of the London-based Ben’s Creek Group, which owns and operates metallurgical coal mines across North America.

On May 2, the DOL’s Office of the Solicitor obtained a temporary restraining order in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia to stop Ben’s Creek Operations from selling or moving the coal mined in its final two weeks of operation until they paid the back wages owed.

Federal law prevents interstate shipment of goods produced in violation of minimum wage, overtime or child labor regulations and applies to the employer and all those in possession of the goods.

“Payroll before profit is one of the key principles in the Fair Labor Standards Act. A bankruptcy filing does not excuse an employer’s obligation to pay workers for all the hours they worked or allow them to violate federal law. The Wage and Hour Division is committed to ensuring workers receive the highest protections to which they are entitled,” DOL Wage and Hour Division District Director John DuMont said.

The court issued a final order on May 10 that required the employer to pay all outstanding back wages.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].