20 CFR 410.110(h) and (j)
Questions have been raised as to whether an individual, who is or was employed by a coal mine operator, is considered a "miner" for purposes of title IV of the Act regardless of the nature of the services performed, and, if not, where the individual was employed in a coal mine and did not extract or prepare coal but worked in performing functions near the extraction and preparation of coal would meet the definition of a "miner."
Section 402(d) of the Act provides that '(t)he term miner means any individual who is or was employed in a coal mine.' Regulations No. 10 (20 C.F.R. Part 410) provides in section 410.110(j) that "'miner' or coal miner' means any individual who is working or has worked as an employee in a coal mine, performing functions in extracting the coal or preparing the coal so extracted." There is no amplification or discussion in the legislative history of the Act as to congressional intent respecting the definition of "miner." The regulation, as set forth above, defines the term "miner" or "coal miner" as an employee in a "coal mine" who performs functions in extraction or preparation of coal. Taken literally, the language of the regulation could be interpreted as meaning that the only employees who may be considered "coal miners" are those who physically touch or are directly involved in extracting or preparing the coal. Such a restrictive interpretation does not seem appropriate or legally justifiable in light of the overall remedial nature of the law.
On the other hand, mere employment in a "coal mine", even when the employer is a "coal mine operator" under the law, is insufficient by itself to qualify an employee as a "coal miner." For example, an employee such as a clerk or accountant who works in an office on the coal mine property or a company security guard who patrols the perimeter of the property may never be involved, even remotely, with the extraction or preparation of coal even though such individual is employed by a "coal mine operator." Such employment could not be considered to ball within the purview of the regulation defining "coal miner"; nor would it seem otherwise that such employment were intended to be covered under the Act.
Further, it is possible that an individual who does not physically extract or prepare coal but performs functions near its extraction or preparation would meet the definition of "miner" under the regulation. While it is clear that Congress intended to protect those individuals who are directly involved with the extraction or preparation of coal for market, it also seems apparent that protection was to be afforded to some coal mine employees performing functions indirectly related to, but near, the extraction and preparation of coal. Thus, the language of the regulation is purposely broad, using the word "functions" which covers all kinds of duties in the coal extractive and preparative process, many of which do not directly involve the coal itself.
There are many supportive jobs in the coal mining industry in dusty areas which, but for the lack of direct contact with the coal, are substantially equivalent in terms of dust exposure. Many of these jobs are necessary in, and sometimes unique to, the extraction or preparation of coal. Such a job, for example, is that of an electrician in the coal mines. An electrician is not directly involved with coal extraction, but works in and around the mines maintaining and installing electrical equipment. His function is required in modern coal mining and such employees have been considered to be "coal miners" for purposes of the Act. Since supportive jobs vary greatly and some such employees may be considered "coal miners" while others may not, ultimately the decision that an employee is or is not a "coal miner" becomes judgmental, to be decided on a case-by-case basis. However, the following guidelines may be helpful for making a decision whether a particular job is sufficiently related to the extraction or preparation of coal for its incumbent to be considered a "coal miner" under the regulation.
Presuming that an individual is an employee in a "coal mine" as defined by Regulations No. 10, section 410.110(h) (20 C.F.R. 410.110(h)), first consideration should be given to the type of duties performed. If such duties are unique, peculiar, or usual to coal mining, in most instances, such employee would be considered to be a "coal miner". However, the fact that such duties or occupation are more typical of other industries will not by itself prevent such a finding being made if other factors such as job location or working conditions would otherwise warrant it.
For example, the electrician discussed above would normally not be considered a coal miner. However, when an electrician works in a coal mine he is normally considered to be a "coal miner." For further example, a laborer, whose job is sweeping, would not be unique to coal mining. However, where the sweeping is done inside the mine or just outside its entrance, he most likely would be considered to be a "coal miner" for purposes of the Act. On he other hand, a clerk, accountant, or secretary who works in an office at the mine, usually would not be considered to be a "coal miner" irrespective of location because such duties are not connected except in the most tenuous fashion to the extraction and preparation of coal.
Dusty atmosphere must also be considered as a separate, albeit not controlling, factor in some cases. Since Congress intended to protect coal miners from coal dust, the incumbent of a job in the coal manufacturing process subject to coal dust would likely be considered a "coal miner."
Directness of connection between the job duties and the coal extractive or preparative process, must also be considered. There should be a connection between the functions performed and the coal manufacturing process. Each case must be evaluated separately on its own facts. The more direct the connection the more likely it is that an employee would be classified under the regulation as a "coal miner." However, this is but another factor to be weighed; it is not necessarily controlling.
Close questions of judgment may arise in some cases where the connection to the coal manufacturing process is indirect, for example, where an individual works in a "coal mine" as a janitor in a "welfare room" or washhouse. Washhouse functions are universally supplied by the coal industry as a reasonably required service, perhaps even a necessity, for the miners; such services may even be included as a part of the union-management contract. Thus, an argument may be made that such services are functions performed in extraction or preparation of coal. Where such a janitor breathes dust-laden air to the same extent as another person more directly related to the coal manufacturing process in approximately the same location, it may be difficult to justify different treatment. Normally, in such a situation, other factors present would be considered and a decision would not have to be based solely upon directness of relationship. One factor that maybe considered in such situations if there is a doubt on how the case should be decided on the basis of the factors previously discussed is common usage in the coal fields. This is to say that if such individual who is connected, albeit remotely, to the extraction and preparation of the coal for market and works in or near that process, is considered to be a coal miner by persons in the area, this may be considered a factor favorable to the claimant. Determinations as to whether or not a given employee meets the definition of 'coal miner' in such close cases are judgment matters based upon the specific facts in each case and considering all the factors discussed above.
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