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Western Kentucky Coal Miner Files Discrimination Lawsuit


Four cases alleging a Western Kentucky coal company repeatedly discriminated against a miner for reporting unsafe working conditions were filed last week.

Patrick Shemwell was fired twice by Ken American Resources in Muhlenberg County.

The first time, he filed six lawsuits, outlining ways the company had retaliated against him for reporting incidents to the Mine Safety and Health Administration, and refusing to work in unsafe conditions. The company settled, and Shemwell got his job back.

Shemwell’s attorney Tony Oppegard says almost immediately, the pattern began again.

“We think all these cases are meritorious. He had an incredible amount of protected activities—those are safety complaints, calls to the MSHA hotline, talking to MSHA inspectors—because he really was a safety advocate on the job.” –Tony Oppegard

Coal miners are protected from discrimination under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. Oppegard doesn’t expect the cases to be resolved before the summer.

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