Kentucky Court Affirms AK Steel's Actions in Safety Case

The Franklin Circuit Court has ruled that AK Steel did not unlawfully discipline its employees.

The Franklin Circuit Court of the Commonwealth of Kentucky has affirmed the finding''s of the Review Commission for the Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health cabinet that AK Steel did not unlawfully discipline employees following an incident that took place in February, 1998.

The case originated with a compaint filed in March, 1998 by Gail Riggs, the president of the local union that represented employees at AK Steel''s Ashland, Ky. coke operations. Riggs filed the complaint after union employees were disiplined for violating plant safety rules.

The employees claimed the company disiplined them in retaliation for reporting alleged safety violations by the company. That allegation led to a hearing in which the hearing officer deternimed that AK Steel has a comprehensive safety program that instructs employees to follow specific safety procedures.

In December, 1998, the review Commission''s hearing officer concluded that Riggs'' testimony was not credible and that no evidence was presented to support the claim of discriminatory disipline. The Kentucky Secretary of Labor then petitioned the review commission for appeal of the hearing officer''s dismissal of the citation.

The review commission concluded in February, 2000 that AK Steel acted appropriately with regard to disciplining the employees and dismissed the complaint. The state secretary of labor, who had originally recomended a fine of $30,000 against the company, appealed the decision to the Franklin Circuit Court, who eventually put an end to further appeals.

"We are pleased that this issue is finally resolved and that AK Steel has been completely exonerated," said Alan H. McCoy, vice president, public affairs. "It is unfortunate that the untrue accusations led to more than two years of legal proceedings and costs to the taxpayers of Kentucky."

AK Steels'' Midtown coke plant received the Max Edward safety award for the third time in four years from the American Coke and Coal Chemicals Institute with a perfect OSHA recordable injury frequency of zero in 2000.

The company''s Ashland coke plant had only one recordable injury in 2000 resulting in an OSHA recordable injury frequency of 0.26, about 30 times better than the coke industry average.

by Melissa Martin

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