Signature Sponsor
Bankrupted Mine Operator Ordered to Pay Back Wages



May 29, 2024 - The U.S. Department of Labor says it has recovered $175,000 in back wages from a Charleston, WV-based coal company after the company denied 44 miners a final paycheck after laying them off and declaring bankruptcy.

According to a Tuesday news release from the DOL, Ben’s Creek Operations WV laid off the workers at their Matewan operation on April 9, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy five days later and then failed to issue final paychecks the miners for the two-week pay period that ended April 13.

“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 DOL 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.”

The department was able to obtain a temporary restraining order in U.S. District Court in Southern West Virginia on May 2 that stopped Ben’s Creek from selling or moving any of the coal mined during its final two weeks of operation. An investigation showed the mine had produced about 40,000 tons of metallurgical coal worth more than $3 million during that time.

A final order to pay back wages came from the court on May 10.

“Miners do difficult and often dangerous work to support the nation’s economy,” said Regional Solicitor Samantha Thomas said in a Tuesday news release. “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.”

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, the DOL said.