Federal mine safety agency files labor complaint against Rockland construction firm

Ferraiolo Construction's office in Rockland is seen Thursday, May 17, 2012.
Ferraiolo Construction's office in Rockland is seen Thursday, May 17, 2012.
Posted May 17, 2012, at 3:50 p.m.
Last modified May 17, 2012, at 4:24 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — The federal agency that oversees mine safety has filed a complaint against a Rockland company, claiming it illegally fired a worker who reported safety violations.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration based in Arlington, Va., filed a complaint with the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission against Ferraiolo Construction Inc. to reinstate a worker to his former position and provide compensation for wages lost as a result of his being unlawfully fired, according to a news release from the mine safety administration.

The federal agency also is asking that the company be fined $20,000.

A complaint was filed with the mine safety administration on Nov. 29, 2011, on behalf of the worker, who is not named in the news release, claiming the worker was fired Sept. 30, 2011, from his job at a portable gravel plant located in Thomaston.

MSHA investigated the complaint at the Portable Pioneer Plant in Thomaston and found that the miner had engaged in protected activity when he alerted the company about unresolved safety problems, refused to turn on the plant’s generator until required safety guards had been installed and called MSHA to report the company’s failure to install those safety guards, according to the news release.

A telephone message was left Thursday afternoon with both the company president and with the human resources office at Ferraiolo, seeking comment about the complaint.

The MSHA seeks a finding from the commission that Ferraiolo unlawfully discriminated against the worker in violation of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, which states that miners, their representatives, and applicants for employment are protected from retaliation for engaging in safety and-or health-related activities, such as identifying hazards, asking for MSHA inspections or refusing to engage in unsafe acts.

More specifically, an administrative law judge from the commission will determine whether the miner, a general laborer since 2007, had engaged in activities protected under the federal law, and whether plant officials took adverse action against him in retaliation for those activities.

In this case, MSHA is seeking an order requiring Ferraiolo to cease and desist from discharging or otherwise discriminating against the miner or any other miner because she or he engages in protected activity; remove from the miner’s personnel file and other company records any adverse references to him arising from the events leading to the unlawful discharge; and extend an offer to reinstate the miner to his former position, along with the same rate of pay and benefits prior to his unlawful discharge.

Additionally, the federal agency seeks imposition of a $20,000 civil penalty.

“Every miner has the right to identify hazardous conditions and refuse unsafe work without fear of discrimination or retaliation,” said Joseph Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “The Mine Act allows workers to exercise this right without fear of being fired, demoted, harassed, transferred, refused employment or suffering any loss of wages.”

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