A federal appeals court sided with a shovel operator who said she was fired from a Wyoming coal mine for raising safety concerns.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday rejected Cloud Peak Energy's appeal of an administrative law judge's ruling for Cindy Clapp, citing "substantial evidence" that backed the judge's decision.
Under Judge Thomas McCarthy's ruling in December 2011, the company must reinstate Clapp, reimburse her for lost income and pay a $40,000 penalty.
"I'm very pleased with the outcome," Clapp said. "I'm pleased our rights to a safe workplace are protected. I'm just happy."
Clapp, a long-time worker at the Cordero Rojo mine in Wyoming's portion of the Powder River Basin, was fired by Gillette-based Cloud Peak subsidiary Cordero Mining LLC in March 2010.
The judge's ruling found that Cordero Mining discriminated against Clapp under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act by firing her for the protected act of raising safety concerns.
Her concerns included what she viewed as dangerous procedures for unloading overloaded dump trucks, ignored requests for water to cut vision-blocking dust and the placement of electronic screens she said blocked the view of bulldozer and shovel operators.
Clapp filed a complaint with the Department of Labor in May 2010, claiming she had been unlawfully fired and expressing concern that her firing would chill safety complaints from other workers at the Cordero Rojo mine.
“This decision represents a resounding victory for miners and their right to identify hazardous conditions that imperil themselves and their fellow miners without fear of reprisal,” Joseph A. Main, director of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, said in a news release.
Cloud Peak has until Dec. 31 to petition the court for a rehearing.
Cloud Peak spokeswoman Molly Nichelson didn't specifically address whether the company intended to ask for a new hearing.
"As a matter of policy, we do not comment on pending legal matters," she said.