The laid-off employees of bankrupt Blackjewel mining are filing a class-action lawsuit against the company.
Blackjewel employees from the company's mines in Wyoming and other states are saying the company violated the Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification or WARN Act. They're asking for 60 days of wages and benefits, like health insurance, since the company failed to notify employees that they would be laid off. According to the act, employees are supposed to receive written notice 60 days before mass lay-offs or planned closings.
Stuart Miller, a partner at Lankenau & Miller in New York, is representing the Blackjewel employees. Miller said since the case is in bankruptcy court, wage claims are considered a high priority.
"These employees would have the first shot at any money [after secured and adminstrative creditors]. So, if there's any money going to go to any unsecured creditors, even if it's a nickel or a dime on the dollar, in theory, each of the employees would be entitled to 100 percent of whatever the claim is allowed at," he said.
Eligible employees must have been working at a site that had at least 50 full-time employees who were terminated. All eligible employees are automatically included in the case, meaning employees don't have to individually join when the class is certified, Miller said.
"The nice thing about the WARN Act class action, as opposed to other types of class action lawsuits, is that its knowns as an opt-out class rather than an opt-in class. And historically we have less than a one percent opt-out rate," he said.
He said since announcing the class action suit, more employees have asked to join. Miller said he expects to amend the claim and add employees from each of Blackjewel's sites to the claim in the coming weeks.