By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- The federal agency that oversees mine safety is alleging a western Kentucky coal company broke the law by filing a lawsuit against a former worker who complained about unsafe working conditions.

Reuben Shemwell lodged a complaint against Armstrong Coal last year, after he was fired from his job as a welder in 2011.

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Agency decided not to pursue Shemwell's complaint, but it got involved again this month after Armstrong sued Shemwell. MSHA alleges Armstrong's suit violates a law designed to protect miners who file discrimination complaints.

Armstrong's lawsuit, filed in August, alleges that Shemwell's discrimination complaint was false, and he was fired for excessive cellphone use.

An Armstrong Coal representative did not immediately return a call for comment Wednesday.

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