David Engelbrecht has filed a class action lawsuit against Blackjewel, accusing the bankrupt company of violating federal law by failing to inform and compensate workers before closing down on July 1.
According to the lawsuit, the coal company violated the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act because CEO Jeffrey Hoops didn’t get enough written notice of the layoffs and didn’t offer the workers 60 days of wages.
“On or about July 1, 2019 and thereafter, Defendant (Blackjewel) terminated the Plaintiff’s employment as part of a mass layoff and/or plant closure which qualifies as an event for which he was entitled to receive sixty (60) days’ advance written notice under the WARN Act,” the lawsuit said.
Hundreds of workers at the mines were sent home on July 1 after Blackjewel filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and didn’t secure a $20 million loan to keep the coal mines running.
Some of the workers said their paychecks were normally deposited on Fridays were withheld and that Blackjewel stopped contributing to their 401(k) plan and health savings account six weeks ago.
Engelbrecht’s attorney, Stuart Miller, said that the lawsuit aims to cover all employees affected by the Blackjewel closures.
“The key issue is this: (Blackjewel workers) were all paid by the same employer,” Miller said. “We have spoken to a number of other people, and we are waiting for a bunch to enter agreements from other facilities.”
During a court hearing, Blackjewel attorneys said that they were looking for more funding to reopen two shuttered coal mines in Campbell County. The company will present a new financial package to the court on Friday. If the plan is approved, they plan to reopen the mines and employ at full capacity again.
“Even if they were to sell the company and employees were re-hired, the law is clear,” Miller said. “This would have been a WARN Act violation.”