Miners who allege they were laid off unlawfully from a Mechel Bluestone Inc. mine in Wyoming Couny in 2013 were granted class action certification Tuesday by Judge Irene Berger in Beckley federal court.

A pretrial conference hearing is set for July 21, and the trial is slated for August 8.

According to the order, named plaintiff Michael Ray and at least 76 miners at the Double-Bonus Mine No. 65, owned by Mechel Bluestone, were laid off between Nov. 20, 2013 and Dec. 19, 2013, in violation of the WARN Act (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act).

To bring a suit under the WARN Act, at least 50 people and 33 percent of the workers must be laid off.

The miners were allegedly laid off verbally, without a sixty-day notice and their medical and dental coverage was improperly terminated.

The suit states the United Mine Workers also did not receive written notice of the lay off.

A complaint was originally filed in Wyoming County Circuit Court but was moved to federal court on March 12, 2015.

A previous request to have the suit certified as a class action was denied on March 2, 2016.

In the earlier motion, the law firm representing the miners, Mountain State Justice Inc., asked for the class action to include all laid-off miners from three mines located in Wyoming and McDowell. At that time Berger said three different mines were not a "single site of employment," although they shared "broad operational purpose."

On Tuesday Berger also denied a motion to certify two Wyoming County mines, Double-Bonus Mine No. 65 and Coal Mountain Surface Mine Number 1 under the same class action. Coal Mountain is operated by Dynamic Energy, also a subsidiary of Mechel Bluestone.

Around 128 were laid off at the Coal Mountain mine during the same time period in 2013.

Mountain State Justice argued both Wyoming County mines shared an electrician and some equipment, however Berger only granted the motion to certify a class action for laid-off miners at the Double-Bonus mine.

Mechel Bluestone is owned by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Justice.

Justice sold Mechel Bluestone in 2009 to Russia's OAO Mechel for a combination of cash and Mechel stock valued at $568 million.

He purchased the mines back for $5 million in February 2015, reopening some mine locations and creating around 150 jobs.

— Email: splummer@register-herald.com; follow on Twitter @Sarah_E_Plummer

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