Roughly 60 plaintiffs are claiming a nonprofit tasked with preparing underserved rural Appalachians for tech jobs failed to properly train them, and failed to pay them as promised.
Filed Dec. 6 in Raleigh County Circuit Court, the case is being proposed as a class action lawsuit. A judge has not yet certified it as such.
Mined Minds Foundation Inc., a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit corporation, had a mission of “growing tech hubs in areas of economic need within rural Appalachia” by “working with training providers to grow a talented and diverse workforce, as well as working to create and bring new career opportunities to the region.”
One of the goals was to educate unemployed coal miners to become proficient in tech jobs, such as coding, the suit said.
Mined Minds, which offered programs in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, consisted of a training, apprenticeship and employment phase. According to the suit, students were guaranteed well-paying jobs in the tech industry, so long as they were fit candidates.
During informational and recruitment sessions, students were further promised monetary compensation for their time in the training and apprenticeship phases. At least one of these sessions happened in Raleigh County.
“The one thing we know for sure is that Mined Minds promised $15 an hour in the apprenticeship period, after Phase 1 was over,” said attorney Stephen P. New. He said the defendants have 30 days to file a response.
The lawsuit not only alleges the students were not paid as promised, but were not sufficiently prepared for a job in the tech field. Instructors did not adhere to the syllabus, and many instructors were undertrained or ill-suited to teach, as they were recent graduates of the program themselves.
“Upon information and belief, no graduate of the defendant Mined Minds Foundation’s program has ever found a job in the tech industry other than those who eventually worked for Mined Minds or a company directly related thereto.”
One of the plaintiffs, Victoria Frame, said she was told compensation was not available at the time, but would be forthcoming. When she found out operations had ceased in Pennsylvania, she dropped out of the program.
The suit said Mined Mines received a cease and desist order which stated they must be licensed as a school to continue the program.
Also named in the suit as defendants are the owners of Mined Minds — Amanda Laucher, Jonathan Graham and Marvin Laucher.
The complaint alleges the defendants were given substantial grants and government funding to conduct the classes. The plaintiffs claim they have suffered financial and professional harm. They are seeking damages, punitive damages, costs, attorneys fees and other relief.
Additional plaintiffs could be added to the suit, as New said the roughly 60 individuals he represents were from the latest class.
“My understanding is there are two or three other classes of that same size,” he said.
In addition to New, the plaintiffs are being represented by Adam D. Taylor.
The case has been assigned to Raleigh County Circuit Court Judge Andrew Dimlich.