Supervisor Told EEOC Witness Never to Testify Against a Coal Company, Federal Agency Charges

BECKLEY, W.V. – Affiliated companies Southern Coal Corporation, Kentucky Coal Transport, LLC, and Tams Management, Inc., together with contracted hauling company Legacy Land Management, Inc., violated federal law against retaliation in discrimination cases, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed yesterday. The EEOC said the companies retaliated against a truck driver who opposed his former employer’s unlawful discrim­ination and participated in an EEOC lawsuit against another coal company.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Michael Atkins worked as a coal truck driver at a mine in Tams, W.V. When Atkins’s supervisor learned that he was testifying against another coal company, the supervisor took a series of retaliatory actions against him, including telling Atkins he should never testify against a coal company, giving him the ultimatum of transferring to a remote worksite or to leave his job altogether. The retaliation resulted in the termination of Atkins’s employment.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination and harassment based on national origin, race, color, sex or religion and retaliation for opposing such unlawful practices or for participating in a Title VII investigation, lawsuit or other proceeding. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Legacy Land Management, Inc., Tams Management, Inc., Kentucky Coal Transport, LLC, and Southern Coal Corporation, Case No. 5:19-cv-00429) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settle­ment through its administrative conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking permanent injunctive relief prohibiting Legacy Land and the affiliated Southern Coal companies from retaliating against emp­loyees for opposing unlawful employment practices under Title VII or participating in a Title VII investigation or proceeding, lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages, and other relief.

“Whether an employee opposes discrimination or participates in a Title VII proceeding against his current employer or against an employer from his past, he is protected from reprisal,” said EEOC District Director Jamie R. Williamson of the agency’s Philadelphia District. “A company’s industry affiliation with another company is no excuse for unlawful retaliation.”

Philadelphia District Office Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence said, “Employers must remember that it is unlawful to punish an employee for supporting another employee’s allegations of discrimination.”

The EEOC Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. The legal staff of the Philadelphia District Office of the EEOC also prosecutes discrim­ination cases in Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.

Preserving access to the legal system by targeting retaliatory practices that effectively dissuade others in the workplace from exercising their rights under anti-discrimination laws is one of six national priorities identified by EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.