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Former coal mine employee sues for wrongful termination

Coal mining is back-breaking work, and injuries are not uncommon. One West Virginia man who was receiving medical care for a work-related back injury says that he was wrongfully terminated for what his employers termed "unexcused absences."

The plaintiff had begun working for Patriot Coal in 2013, doing maintenance work in an underground mine. He says that he was getting occasional injections from a doctor to help with the pain caused by an injury suffered at a previous job. According to the suit, he notified his employers and brought a doctor's note whenever he had a medical appointment.

He says that he informed his manager in early 2015 of the reason for his doctor's appointments and was told to "do what he needed to do." However, he says that he was asked to fill out an accident report. He declined to do that since the injury wasn't related to his current job.

The following day, he says that he was suspended for reportedly not telling anyone that he was leaving early for a doctor's appointment even though he had told his boss. He was terminated days later for his "unexcused absences."

The man is suing Patriot Coal as well as Speed Mining for violation of the West Virginia Human Rights Act, which prohibits employers from failing to retain, accommodate, reinstate or rehire an employee due to a disability. He is asking for compensatory as well as punitive damages, in part for emotional distress.

So much communication that occurs between employers and employees is verbal. Therefore, things like being given the OK to take time off for a medical appointment can become a he said/she said matter. That's why documentation is key. While most people just hand over doctors' notes to their employers, it's always a good idea to keep copies of them for yourself.

While most people want to trust their employers to do the right thing, sadly, they don't always live up to those expectations. It's always best to help protect yourself from wrongful termination with as much evidence as possible.

Source: West Virginia Record, "Man accuses Patriot Coal Corporation of wrongful termination," Kyla Asbury, March 15, 2017

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