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Employees support settlement offer over Foresight coal layoffs

Foresight Energy LP hopes to end a lawsuit over the termination of employees at its troubled Deer Run mine with a $550,000 settlement fund for employees and their attorneys.

On Oct. 25, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois entered a preliminary order approving a proposed class-action settlement and a form of class notice. The settlement applies to employees who were not relocated to another mine and offers certain back wages, back health benefits and back retirement benefits based on pay and cost of benefits for each employee.

"The full-throated endorsement of the settlement by the class members was common," a Jan. 17 filing by the employees note. "[A]nd the most common inquiry by class members was, essentially, 'when will I receive the settlement money,' a sentiment that supports approving the settlement."

The mine was shut down in July 2014 due to a "carbon-monoxide-producing spontaneous combustion event." The employees alleged that Foresight subsidiary Patton Mining LLC violated the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act by not offering enough notice of the terminations. Foresight had countered the events qualified for a natural disaster exemption.

The parties opted to engage in settlement negotiations to resolve the matter. Foresight also agreed to take on class notice and settlement administration costs as well as the class members' $125,000 in attorney's fees and litigation.

Certain employees leading the class action will also receive $5,000 or $3,000 apiece for a total of $19,000 in "incentive awards."