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Jon Lewis
Jon Lewis
Attorney • (888) 295-7409



On a flight last week, I was catching up on my reading.  In the August 7, 2015 edition of the Birmingham Business Journal, there was a list of the highest paid public company executives (ranked by compensation in 2014).  Four of the five top 25 were from Walter Energy:

#5 –   Walter J. Scheller (age 54) – Total Compensation:  $6,292,406     Salary – $820,000
#17 – William Harvey (age 57) – Total Compensation:   $2,887,142     Salary – $489,506
#20 – Earl Doppelt (age 61) – Total Compensation:   $2,512,237      Salary – $451,440
#24 – Michael Madden (age 63) – Total Compensation:  $2,300,906     Salary – $397,828

That’s a total compensation package of just under $14,000,000.  Why?  What justifies this compensation?  Walter Energy filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July, 2015 with $5 billion in debts.  YES, $5 BILLION!!

Walter Energy also laid off 194 employees at the end of July and warned of hundreds more to come – read here.

So, these executives at Walter Energy earn compensation of almost $14 Million for incurring $5 billion in debt and laying off employees.  They were well worth the pay.  I realize the coal industry is enduring hard times, but shouldn’t the compensation packages reflect the company’s performance?  Not when the company’s attitude toward its injured workers reflects this narcissistic attitude.

Recently, an individual employed our firm as a result of injuries he sustained in the Jim Walter Mine.  A large rock fell  on top of him and caused him to have surgery on his shoulder.  He came into my office because the doctor released him to return to work, but when he came into my office, he could barely move his arm, and he was to the point of tears.  Now, he’s either the greatest actor ever and belongs in Hollywood, or it’s just sad that he cannot get the company to work with him and help him get back to work.  The man is being paid approximately $700/week from workers compensation while he is off work, but he earns over $1700/week.  Now, he’s not receiving anything because the doctor says he can return to work.

Wouldn’t any reasonable person think that he would want to go back to work as soon as he could?  Wouldn’t the company want him to be totally healthy before he gets back in the mines?  Not Walter Energy.  They won’t cooperate at all.  They are basically telling him to file a lawsuit.  All he wants is appropriate medical treatment.

Here’s what their representative told me:  “we will not release information to you as a plaintiff attorney.”
As a result, I requested a panel of four physicians a week ago, and as of today, I still have not received the panel.  The workers compensation doctor says my client can return to work.  The client went to his primary doctor on his own dime, and his primary doctor says there is absolutely no way he can work, especially since he requires pain medication.

This is how Walter Energy treats its employees.  This is how many companies treat their employees.  They pay their executives enormous sums of money and compensation packages, but when it comes to their employees, they treat them like second class citizens when all they are trying to do is their job.

On top of that, this corporations are buying our government, and the people of this country don’t seem to get it.  The political contributions made to the various candidates are not gratuitous for the most part.  They come with expectations.  Donald Trump admitted it in the first debate:  Hillary Clinton got my contribution, and I expected her at my wedding.

These companies should be accountable for their actions, but in the workers compensation setting, they aren’t.  In the insurance setting, they aren’t.  They have many laws which protect them and make it harder and harder for the average person to get a fair shake.


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  1. Jonny says:
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    I work at walterenergy no 4 mine they do a lot of things to people such as force them to work a 6 day work week even when they are going bankrupt but the mine manager is sure to have time to spend with his family on the weekends I guess those are the perks of the job for him am his buddies and if you get hurt everyone knows the workman’s comp doctor will put you back to work whether your able to work or not

  2. Jon Lewis says:
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    Thank you for the comments Jonny. I know it can be rough sledding.

  3. Dina Padilla says:
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    I just want to say that there needs to be major lawsuits on either our govt or the insurance industry for hurting injured workers over and over again. I thought persecution was not allowed in the good ole U.SA.,
    Thanks for your helping injured workers. Our presidential candidates need to know the federal govt is not doing it;s job for us and one has to wonder WHY NOT?

  4. Jon Lewis says:
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    Thank you for your comment Dina. It’s not the government as much as insurance companies and lobbyists.

  5. Lauren says:
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    This makes me sick. Why wouldn’t they take a pay cut to help get everything back on track? That’s right, they are narcissist.

  6. Willie Brown says:
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    This company needs to be reported to Governor Robert Bentley and Senator Jeff Sessions….The outside world needs to know just how evil and Lowdown they are.

  7. Hank Rutledge says:
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    Willie, they own Robert Bentley and Jeff Sessions

  8. Jon Lewis says:
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    Lauren, Willie and Hank, thank you for your comments. The whole problem is that our citizens, especially in Alabama, keep voting against their interests. Most of all these insurance companies and large corporations back the right wing republicans who do not pass any laws in favor of injured workers. The workers compensation laws have not been changed in 25-30 years. The maximum compensation rate is $220/week which is less than the current Federal Minimum Wage of $7.35/hour ($220/40 hours = $5.50/hour). It’s ridiculous, but no one cares until it affects them personally.

  9. cory says:
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    Walter Energy in North Birmingham fired me and another coworker cause we claim 2 hours but suspended us before that pay period and got the hours back. We did the work that might take 2 hours but finish way ahead of time.

  10. Jon Lewis says:
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    Sorry to hear that Cory.

  11. Beth says:
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    Well Joeyand Jon, as a mine managers wife I can tell you that my mine manager husband hasn’t been off on a Saturday for 4 months. Add to that all the MANY times he’s gone back to the mine at night after a 12-14 hour work day, and I would say things are NOT always greener on the other side. There are so many things and so much work time that the average miner has no clue that the manager does. Has Walter been good to him? Yes, but these are demanding jobs in demanding times, and all I can speak for is this level of management but I know they try to be fair to their employees under their immediate supervisors. BY LAW, when a doctor says a worker is able to work, he can ask for limited duties. So I do believe Attorney Jon, you need to not promote propaganda that isn’t exactly true. And Joey, you knew the demands of this job when you took it. Maybe you should look for another

  12. Jon Lewis says:
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    I appreciate your comments Beth. I asked the company for a panel of four doctors 10 days ago, and I have still not received it. Additionally, their attorney/Work Comp manager told me they never send anything to a Plaintiff’s attorney. At this point, my client’s only recourse is to file suit. So, I ask you, who is promoting litigation?

  13. Jon Lewis says:
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    One last thing. It’s not propaganda. The compensation packages are what they are, and the debt is what it is. The layoffs are happening. The treatment of my client is horrendous.

  14. Randy says:
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    I worked at Walter Energy after they bought Chevron Mining. Absolutely the worst managed company I have ever worked for. Safety there is a complete joke and they don’t care anything about the miners underground. From the Mine manager Jones all the way down to the safety department it is a poorly managed mine. I was hurt there myself and had knee surgery and was told to go back to work before I was able to work. I used my personal days to take time to heal because the workmans comp Dr said I was able to ho back when I wasn’t. I asked to see another Dr and they said no.

  15. Jon Lewis says:
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    Thank you Randy. This sounds familiar.

  16. Donna says:
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    Beth can you tell us what part of this is propaganda? I personally know several miners from Walters that have been treated this way. Just because your husband hasn’t been doesn’t mean it’s propaganda. My Husband is still employed there for now but who knows what tomorrow holds.

  17. Lomiracle says:
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    Maybe Beth doesn’t know the definition of propaganda. Normally, until someone is impacted on a personal level, things aren’t really happening. These type of bonuses were given to the execs of the banking industry before the govt bailouts. This needs to be gotten under control or else they shouldn’t be able to file bankruptcy and seek protection.

  18. Former Employee says:
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    I was one of those salary workers laid off, I was about to come back from maternity leave only to have them reduce me. So now I’m a new mom and unemployed.

  19. John says:
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    Beth, I’m sure your your observations are as you perceive them. I worked for over 33 years for Jim Walter’s AKA Walter Energy and on more than one occasion I have went to the “Company Dr.” only to be told that it is “Normal arthritis” and I must deal with it, only to have to return to said Dr. demanding that I be sent for a MRI where a diagnosis reveals that corrective surgery is required. I’m also sure that by being married to a mine manager and therefor so involved with day to day operations of the mines that you are aware that is no “Light Duty” for hourly paid employees.

  20. Che says:
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    No one “forces” them to do anything. It’s A CHOICE! If you feel this way WHY WORK THERE? LEAVE! That’s my problem with America you whine and whine about things but don’t want to do anything about it! My husband knew it was time for him to leave because he was unhappy so he left! These people are not forcing you to work for them. And also remember just because someone posts or tell you an intriguing story that does not mean that it’s true. I know MANY of workers that have been caught malingering or been on surveillance doing hard labor at home after telling their attorney or doctor that that they can’t do a thing. Its 2015 and everyone is out looking for a dollar they’re not entitled to. I do agree with Jon Lewis that people don’t care until it affects them. There are some that have legit injuries and do need help but please remember there are also just as many that LIE!

  21. Chris says:
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    Well the thing that gets to me is this. They have laid off 194 UNION workers. While salary hasn’t let any go. This is not the unions fault the company is in the condition that they are. Why are they not cutting company jobs. When the company is at fault for the situation. UNION WANTS ANSWERS

  22. chuck says:
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    All of this sounds like a plaintiff atty classified ad page. You need to do a little research on Walter Energy. They have afforded a lot of “good” miners the opportunity to provide a good living for their families. These stories may have merit but I can attest to the fact that they are not the norm.

  23. Tammy says:
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    Would this company Dr happen to Bobo?

  24. Tim says:
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    Sounds like workmens comp Dr’s are paid off. As for you Beth your husband knew what his job entailed too. Long hrs extra trips back to the mine also probably making a lot more than the miner too!!!

  25. Eddie Horton says:
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    As a former employee of JWR and a former International Rep of the UMWA, I’ll be glad to tell you all about the companies underhanded practices. I believe you know how to contact me.

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    Your comments about “The maximum compensation rate is $220/week….” I must have been overpaid b/c my compensation rate was at the State max of $813 all the weeks when I was off work. So, can the company get back this difference between $220 and $813 I was overpaid or did you mis-state the rate? People get hurt almost every day on their jobs and some worser than others. Most times employees are taken care of by the company but sometimes companies don’t keep it honest but you gotta know there are State laws the companies gotta follow or they have penalties and I agree that WC pay is low at $813 each week that’s about 1/3 my usual wages but this can’t change except by putting in new State legislators cause they the ones bought by companies. I heard of one company that wanted the employee to sign vouchers for payback money spent at the doctor and for MRI cost after a guy got hurt at work and you know come to find out that company no longer in business and didn’t have no comp insurance. I know the doc’s are not getting paid off; otherwise there would be some investigation already about in the papers. You should state the facts and not try to mislead people. Mr. Lewis, you must think you some clean whistle but people not forced to stay at jobs they don’t like or work for a company that’s go’n under. It’s hard enough for the working families of employees at JWR who are trying to recovery a broken business, caused by many bad decisions by its board of directors and some of the higher ups in the company so don’t try to use this as your way to get clients like an ambulance chaser. The new America thinks they are entitled to stuff and this ain’t true. I am a hard worker and believe people ride the company compensation system when they ain’t hurt all that bad. I think your time would be better spent learning why the company going broke instead of upheaving the hard working employees.

    • Jon Lewis says:
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      $220 is the maximum for the final “Permanent Partial Settlement”. For example, if you are deemed 50% disabled, you are entitled to 300 weeks (if a body as a whole injury) X 2/3 of Average Weekly Wage X disability rating. So, if you make $1,500/week, you get $1,000 (2/3 of $1,500) X 50% or $500/week for 300 weeks, but YOU DON’T because the cap is $220. So, instead of $500 X 300 or $150,000, you get $66,000, and probably less.

  27. Willie Brown says:
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    I was an employee at Walter Energy…I suffered a severe Traumatic Brain Injury….I was in the hospital for a month…my Dr’s said I couldn’t return to work….they sent me some Dr under them name Carol Walker….She said I was faking my injury…Are you serious? I haven’t got my taste senses back yet….I was approved for Social Security in one month….I’m just glad the GOD that I serve got me away from that place.

  28. Willie Brown says:
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    I did therapy for 11 months at UAB Spain Rehabilitation…My frontal lobe,Temporal Lobe,Cerebellum and also my Occipital Lobe was all damaged in the accident….They offered money and I turned it down….I didn’t understand why I was being offered money…it’s like when I said no…the guy got angrey…The guy that offered me money name was Van Wilhite…