Four former employees at the Drumlummon Mine have filed a class-action lawsuit against Drumlummon Gold Corp., saying they and others were underpaid for overtime at the underground gold mine northwest of Helena.
Leroy Harris, Shad Crame, Lonnie Ellison and Brian Morash said they were hourly paid employees of Drumlummon Gold Corp. who also received production bonuses.
They said their work weeks lasted longer than 40 hours and under the Fair Labor Standards Act, they were to be paid time and a half for overtime. That overtime calculation, however, didn’t include the production bonuses as part of the hourly wage.
“Bonuses are part of the regular rate unless they are discretionary … ” their attorney, Rick Sherwood, wrote in documents filed in U.S. District Court in Helena on Friday. “Production bonuses are not discretionary.”
Sherwood said he’s not sure how much overtime pay his clients may be owed, or how many people might be able to enter into the class action lawsuit.
Darryl James, a spokesman for the mine, said they can’t comment on the specific ongoing litigation. But he said that the current mine operators inherited the payroll program, and they’re looking at whether it’s being handled correctly.
“That payroll program is significantly higher than anyone else’s in the industry, and certainly in Montana,” James said. “As part of their review, they certainly know there are things to look at and maybe revise.”
The historic Drumlummon Mine started production in the 1880s and was one of the largest gold and silver mines in the western United States in its heyday. It gave up $29 million in gold and silver back when gold was at $20 per ounce, but later flooded during an ownership dispute.
Canadian-based RX Exploration began dewatering the mine in 2007, and has been exploring and extracting ore from the Drumlummon since 2009. It now employs about 100 people and has pulled upward of $2 million in precious metals from the mine.
After a management dispute in 2011, new board members were brought in and the company later was renamed RX Gold and Silver. RX merged this summer with U.S. Silver, the second largest silver producer in the United States, to form U.S. Silver & Gold.
The plaintiffs in this case are seeking their overtime compensation that includes the production bonuses, as well as their costs in bringing the lawsuit.
A wrongful discharge lawsuit filed in Lewis and Clark District Court by former general foreman Rick Zitnik in May has a trial date set for Sept. 9, 2013. Zitnik claims he was wrongfully fired for enforcing safety standards at the mine. In July, an attorney for the mine asked to get the lawsuit dismissed, saying the company had “legitimate business reasons” for his termination, and any damages were caused by “his own acts or omissions.
Reporter Eve Byron: 447-4076 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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