BECKLEY, W.Va. (WVVA) – Last week, the U.S. Dept of Justice filed suit against Gov. Jim Justice’s son and the coal companies he operates for failing to pay millions in penalties for environmental violations.
On Tuesday, WVVA News obtained court records showing that some of those companies may be in even more trouble. In March, a federal judge in Beckley ordered five of those companies to pay 1.75 million in damages. The judgement came following a jury trial involving a federal class action suit involving more than 160 employees.
The representative of that suit claimed the company failed to notify them of impending layoffs, which was required by the WARN Act. The federal law requires employees be given 60-days notice in the event of a major layoff or plant shutdown. In their response, the companies’ lawyers argued that the employee representing the class action suit was offered employment again in April of 2020, around six months after the workers were laid off. While the company’s lawyers argued that the time period fell short of the federal law’s definition of a significant layoff, it was not enough to sway the jury. Jurors found that the companies were bound by the terms of the WARN Act during that period.
While there is still an opportunity for the companies’ attorneys to appeal, it is likely that the 1.75 million judgements will be even higher once attorneys’ fees are assessed.
Sam Petsonk and Bren Pomponio represented the plaintiffs in the suit.
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