Alliance Coal and several affiliates and subsidiaries face a proposed collective action filed by former miners for the companies who claim they and other workers were not properly paid while working at two West Virginia mines.
According to the 17-page lawsuit, the defendants, who hold themselves out to be a single entity the suit describes as “the second largest coal producer in the eastern United States,” operate the Mettiki Mountain View Mine and Tunnel Ridge Mine in Tucker County and Wheeling, West Virginia, respectively. The suit alleges, however, that the defendants have failed to pay coal miners for off-the-clock work performed before and after their shifts. Additionally, the lawsuit claims the defendants have underpaid workers for overtime hours by failing to include bonuses as part of their regular pay rates when calculating time-and-a-half overtime rates.
Per the suit out of West Virginia, coal miners perform “hazardous and dangerous” work that typically exceeds 40 hours each week. The plaintiffs, former coal miners at the Mettiki mine, say they often worked five to seven days per week.
Coal miners were required to arrive at the mines “sufficiently early” to don protective gear and attend safety meetings prior to the start of their shifts, the lawsuit says. According to the suit, the workers were not paid for time spent donning gear and equipment or for attending meetings, and were compensated only for the duration of their scheduled shifts.
The lawsuit claims coal miners performed for the defendants the following off-the-clock tasks prior to the start of their shifts:
Retrieving specialized gear and clothing from lockers and buckets at the above-ground bathhouse;
Donning specialized protective equipment and clothing, including coveralls, boots, helmets, lamps, reflective gear, work belts, self-rescuers, text-pager tracking devices, hearing protection, safety glasses, respirators and gloves; and
Gathering tools and materials from the storeroom to be used during their shifts.
Likewise, workers put in off-the-clock work at the end of each shift to remove their gear, return tools and equipment to the appropriate locations, return their gear to lockers and ready equipment for use on future shifts, the case alleges. Per the complaint, these duties took “a substantial amount of time.”
The case calls the apparent pre- and post-shit work for which coal miners were not paid “an integral and indispensable part” of their principal work activities. Per the suit, the defendants were capable of recording “the exact time” when coal miners arrived at the facility and began working yet willfully chose to pay them for only the duration of their scheduled shifts.
The lawsuit goes on to claim that workers were not paid proper overtime wages given the defendants failed to include non-discretionary bonuses as part of their regular pay rates for the purpose of calculating overtime. According to the suit, non-discretionary bonuses included:
An annual attendance incentive bonus;
A new electrical certification bonus;
A new mine foreman certification bonus;
An annual emergency medical technician certification bonus;
An annual mine emergency technician certification bonus;
An annual seniority days bonus;
A weekly production bonus; and
A safety incentive bonus.
The lawsuit argues that the defendants’ failure to include these bonuses as part of workers’ regular pay rates when calculating their time-and-a-half overtime rates caused them to be underpaid for the hours they worked above 40 each week. Moreover, the suit says that the defendants’ “boosted hours method” for calculating two types of bonuses also cut into workers’ overtime pay because the number of hours used for the formula did not include employees’ off-the-clock work.
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