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News Release

U.S. Department of Labor Attorney Samantha Thomas Awarded Arthur S. Flemming Award for Legal Achievement

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor today announced that Samantha Thomas, an Associate Regional Solicitor in its Office of the Solicitor, received an Arthur S. Flemming Award for Legal Achievement for her efforts to recover $5,867,536 in back wages for 1,562 coal miners and other mine employees in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Wyoming.

Named in honor of Arthur S. Flemming, who served in government for more than six decades spanning seven administrations, this year’s 71st annual awards honor the accomplishments of 13 employees in agencies across the federal government. Since 1948, the awards have honored outstanding federal employees with three to 15 years of federal service for their exceptional contributions to the federal government. Federal agencies submit their nominations and the Arthur S. Flemming Awards Commission selects recipients through a competitive judging process. The commission partners with the George Washington University Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration and the National Academy of Public Administration to present the awards.

Thomas’s award recognizes her leadership of the Blackjewel litigation team of attorneys and support staff who successfully litigated on behalf of more than 1,562 mining workers whose employer failed to pay them for their work in connection with the mining of 130,000 tons of coal. Thomas was lauded for rapid and strategic litigation decisions as her team pursued injunctive relief under the “hot goods” provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which makes it illegal to ship in interstate commerce goods produced in violation of the minimum wage or overtime provisions of the act.

“Samantha’s leadership and dedication to protecting the welfare of workers is critical to SOL’s success,” said Solicitor of Labor Kate O’Scannlain. “I congratulate her on this well-earned recognition.”

Currently serving in the Arlington Branch Office in the Solicitor’s Philadelphia Regional office, Thomas worked with other departmental offices and agencies over a three-month period as the employer filed for bankruptcy, a buyer asserted its rights to transport the coal, and four cases in litigation proceeded. During the proceedings, the mined coal remained stockpiled and sat in rail cars, and unpaid miners camped out on railroad tracks to ensure the coal stayed put.

In nominating Thomas, the department noted the persistence, quick action, thoroughness and leadership she demonstrated before and throughout the litigation as the driving force behind the case’s swift and successful resolution. She achieved this outstanding result by intensive effort in only three months. Corporate bankruptcies typically result in pennies on the dollar being paid to unsecured creditors such as the debtor’s employees; indeed, a standard approach in these situations is to simply file a proof of claim with the bankruptcy court. Thomas rejected this option and, as a result, achieved a settlement that resulted in payment of all the wages the employees had rightfully earned. Her efforts had a demonstrably positive impact on employees in four states and the recovery received widespread national media coverage.

Thomas joined the Solicitor’s Office as a trial attorney in 2010, following a clerkship with Magistrate Judge Timothy Rice of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. She was promoted to Wage Hour Counsel in the Arlington Branch Office of the Philadelphia Region in 2017, and to her current position in 2018.

The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.

Office of the Secretary
June 1, 2020
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Media Contact: Eric Holland
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