BOSS WATCH: 5/24 - 5/31
Updated On: Jun 18, 2024


By JACOB MORRISON | June 3, 2024


Illegal activities of Southern Bosses for the weeks between Friday, May 24 and Friday, May 31


—WEST VIRGINIA THIEVES—

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. 

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.

—ALABAMA CHILD ABUSERS—

The U.S. Department of Labor filed a complaint on May 30, 2024, asking a federal court to prevent three Alabama companies, including a Hyundai U.S. assembly and manufacturing plant, from employing children illegally. The complaint also requests that the court require the three companies to surrender profits related to the use of oppressive child labor. 

The action follows an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division that found that a 13-year-old worked up to 50-60 hours per week on an assembly line in Luverne, Alabama operating machines that formed sheet metal into auto body parts. In the complaint filed in federal court, the department named three companies as defendants, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama LLC, SMART Alabama LLC and Best Practice Service, LLC. Best Practice Service sent the child to SMART Alabama, which provided component parts to Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama. In the complaint, the department alleged that all three companies jointly employed the child. 

The department went on to allege that between July 11, 2021, through Feb. 1, 2022, the companies willfully and repeatedly violated the child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The complaint further alleges that the companies violated the “hot goods” provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act. 

The department’s Office of the Solicitor filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama in Montgomery and seeks an order to stop the illegal employment of children. The complaint also requests an order requiring the companies to disgorge profits related to the use of child labor.  

Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama LLC operates a manufacturing facility at 700 Hyundai Blvd. in Montgomery. At the time of the events at issue, SMART Alabama LLC manufactured component parts at a facility located at 121 Shin Young Dr. in Luverne. And Best Practice Service LLC was a staffing agency – located at 722 Oliver Road in Montgomery – that supplied labor to SMART Alabama. 

In fiscal year 2023, the department investigated 955 cases with child labor violations, involving 5,792 children nationwide, including 502 children employed in violation of hazardous occupation standards. The department addressed those violations by assessing employers over $8 million in civil money penalties.

—MINER DANGERS—

The U.S. Department of Labor announced today that its Mine Safety and Health Administration completed impact inspections at 15 mines in 11 states in April 2024, issuing 247 violations and two safeguards. An inspector issued safeguards due to site-specific standards at underground coal mines to address safety hazards related to transportation of miners and materials in haulage ways. 

The agency conducts impact inspections at mines that merit increased agency attention and enforcement due to poor compliance history; previous accidents, injuries and illnesses; and other compliance concerns. In April, MSHA inspectors completed inspections at mines in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming. Of the 247 violations identified, the agency evaluated 67 were significant and substantial. 

The Foreman Quarry and Plant operated by Ash Grove Cement Company One in Little River County, Arkansas, was among the mines selected for an impact inspection in April. MSHA chose the cement mine for an impact inspection due, in part, to a recent accident and an unplanned explosion in the alternative fuel storage area.

Inspectors arrived at the mine on the morning of April 22 and headed directly to pre-determined areas of concern based on prior inspection history. The inspection resulted in a total of 50 citations, 14 of which were designated as significant and substantial, including the following:

  • Large rocks and debris were observed on the edge of the feed hopper for the reclaim belt. Miners were working in the area, with no barricades and signage posted, exposing them to falling material hazards and potential crushing injuries. Inspectors issued an S&S violation for this hazardous condition.

  • Inspectors found non-functioning reverse-activated back alarms, leading to two S&S violations. Other hazardous conditions found at the mine included mobile equipment defects, parking procedures not being followed, equipment guarding not being maintained, accumulation of combustible materials, improper chemical labeling, failing to maintain firefighting equipment and multiple compressed air violations.

—DISHONORABLE MENTIONS—

  • The USDOL found Dirty Al’s 2 Inc., operator of Dirty Al’s at Pelican Station in Port Isabel, violated federal law by employing eight minors, including 14 and 15 year-old children, to work as hostesses and bussers. The employer required minors to work extended hours on school days, non-school days and holidays, which exceed the limits set by federal law. The agency assessed $6,328 in penalties for child labor violations       

  • Subway franchises Bilal & Aaya Subway, Inc., H & F Subway Inc. and L & H Subway, Inc. (Subway) will pay $25,000 and provide other relief to settle a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. The president and owner of several Subway franchises repeatedly instructed the general manager, who is Black, not to hire Black employees and to discharge other employees because they were Black or because they appeared to be Black. The owner also created a hostile work environment for Black employees by repeatedly making disparaging remarks and stereotyping them based on his own racial bias. The racially offensive behavior continued until the general manager felt he could no longer work for the company, and resigned.

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) penalized Logan Agri-Service Inc. for allegedly repackaging pesticide products, in violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. The Illinois-based pesticide dealer, which operates a branch in Paris, Missouri, will pay a civil penalty of $74,806. According to EPA, employees at Logan Agri-Services’ Paris branch were repackaging pesticides from bulk containers into containers provided by customers, without required repackaging agreements from the pesticide manufacturers. Further, Logan Agri-Services failed to obtain a registration number from EPA for its Paris branch in order to produce pesticides at that location.


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