Letcher County miner sues company for wrongful termination

A Letcher County miner who was laid off two years ago, then reinstated by a judge and later injured underground, has sued Cumberland River Coal Co. for wrongful termination.

Charles Scott Howard, an underground equipment operator known for safety-related activism, was laid off May 15, 2009, several months after he was disciplined for presenting video and photos of leaking underground seals at a public hearing of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration.

The company said he wasn't authorized to use a camera underground.

Howard was temporarily reinstated, and in August last year, an administrative law judge with the Mine Safety and Health Commission ruled that Howard had been wrongfully terminated.

But a month before, Howard had received a traumatic brain injury while working alone underground operating equipment to clean up a section of a mine.

Howard has been recovering ever since.

The lawsuit was filed Monday by Howard's attorneys, Tony Oppegard of Lexington and Wes Addington of Whitesburg's Appalachian Citizen's Law Center, in Letcher Circuit Court.

The Cumberland River Coal Co. could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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