WARN Act Violation Prompts Lawsuit Against WV Coal Mine

The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) has filed suit against Cornerstone Labor Services for failure to give adequate notice of a mass layoff at its West Virginia Coal Mountain Mine in violation of the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN), which requires employers to give 60 days’ advance notice of a mass layoff or plant closing.

The UMWA filed the suit on behalf of Local Union 8783, which represents 124 mine workers at the Coal Mountain Mine in southwestern West Virginia. In December 2019, the company temporarily laid off the 124 workers, which constituted its entire staff of miners at the site. In February 2020, the company recalled 102 employees, effectively making the layoffs permanent for the 22 remaining workers.

In March 2020, the company temporarily laid off the 102 recalled employees, followed by a recall of 36 employees in May 2020, which left 66 workers permanently laid off. The 66 employees then filed the requisite paperwork under their collective bargaining agreement to be placed on a recall list. However, they were still unemployed after six months, which they contend qualifies as having suffered a permanent employment loss under the WARN Act.

The WARN Act requires employers with 100 or more employees (generally not counting those who have worked less than six months in the last 12 months and those who work an average of less than 20 hours a week) to provide at least 60 calendar days advance written notice of a plant closing and mass layoff affecting 50 or more employees at a single site of employment. There are certain exceptions to this requirement, such as when layoffs occur due to unforeseeable business circumstances, distressed companies, and natural disasters.

The UMWA alleges that Cornerstone failed to give notice of the mass layoff to any local or state government entity as required under the WARN Act. The union is seeking lost wages and benefits for each day of the alleged WARN Act violation for each employee.

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