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Press Release 08-04-2021

Legacy Land Management, Southern Coal and Affiliates to Pay $50,000 to Settle EEOC Retaliation Discrimination Suit

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

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., will pay $50,000 and furnish significant equitable relief to settle a retaliation discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. The EEOC said the companies retaliated against coal truck driver Michael Atkins for opposing his former employer’s alleged unlawful discrimination and for participating in an EEOC lawsuit against another coal company.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Michael Atkins worked for Legacy Land Management and the affiliated Southern Coal companies as a coal truck driver at a surface 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, requiring him to transfer to a remote worksite as a condition of continued employment, firing him, and failing to recall him for later opportunities.

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.

In addition to requiring payment of $50,000 in monetary relief to Atkins, the four-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit enjoins the companies from future retaliation against any person because he or she has opposed unlawful discrimination or participated in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under Title VII. The companies must maintain a policy prohibiting discrimination and retaliation and must provide annual training to all employees, including owners, supervisors, and management, on discrimination made unlawful by Title VII, with a special emphasis on retaliation.

The decree requires the companies to periodically provide information to EEOC about any complaints of discrimination or retaliation and the companies’ responses. The companies also must post a notice about the settlement at all mines and facilities covered by the decree and distribute a copy of the notice to all employees.

“This settlement should remind employers that any participation in a Title VII proceeding is protected activity, whether the proceeding involves a person’s current employer or an employer from his past,” said EEOC District Director Jamie R. Williamson of the agency’s Philadelphia District. “Employers must not retaliate against employees for speaking up about unlawful discrimination.”

Philadelphia District Office Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence added, “We are pleased that this settlement provides compensation to Mr. Atkins for the harm he suffered and is designed to protect other employees from similar retaliation.”

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.