CHARLESTON, WV – An investigation and litigation by the U.S. Department of Labor has recovered $175,000 in back wages from a Charleston coal mining company that laid off 44 Matewan miners and denied them a final paycheck while filing for bankruptcy.The department’s Wage and Hour Division learned Ben’s Creek Operations WV LLC informed the affected workers of the layoff on April 9, 2024, 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, 2024. During that time period, the division determined the mine had produced about 40,000 tons of metallurgical coal worth more than $3 million. “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,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director John DuMont in Pittsburgh. “The Wage and Hour Division is committed to ensuring workers receive the highest protections to which they are entitled.”On May 2, 2024, the department’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 WV 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. The court issued a final order on May 10, 2024, that required the employer to pay all outstanding back wages. “Miners do difficult and often dangerous work to support the nation’s economy,” said Regional Solicitor Samantha Thomas. “The U.S. Department of Labor will use all necessary enforcement tools — including litigation — to stop employers from illegally profiting on the backs of workers, especially when the employer thinks they can deprive people of their hard-earned wages. We appreciate the court’s quick action and that the employer worked with us to ensure their former employees were paid as promised.”The division’s Pittsburgh District Office conducted the investigation. Senior trial attorneys Elizabeth Kuschel and Alexander Gosfield with the department’s Office of the Solicitor in Philadelphia litigated the case.Ben’s Creek Operations WV LLC is a subsidiary of the London-based Ben’s Creek Group PLC, which owns and operates metallurgical coal mines across North America.Workers and employers can call the Wage and Hour Division confidentially with questions, regardless of where they are from, and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages. Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division. Download the agency’s Timesheet App, which is available in English and Spanish for Android and Apple devices, to ensure hours and pay are accurate.

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