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Sterling Employment Law

Second whistleblower at DOE nuclear plant fired

Workers in Michigan may have heard that the Hanford Nuclear Power Reservation in Washington State has fired two employees that made complaints about safety concerns. The second employee was the manager of Environmental and Nuclear Safety, and the Department of Energy-owned plant let her go on Feb. 18.

The first whistleblower was a male safety official, and he was fired in October. He and the female manager raised concerns about a $13 billion cleanup at the facility. There are 177 underground tanks at the DOE plant that house 53 million gallons of nuclear waste, some of which has leaked into the ground. The biggest concern that the employees had is that a design flaw could cause a fatal hydrogen explosion. In the worst case scenario, they were afraid that the flaw could set off a nuclear chain reaction.

The second whistleblower says that cleanup subcontractor URS did not give her a reason for her termination. The company told her that unprofessional conduct was the basis of its decision, but it did not provide an explanation or documentation. She says that one of her former subordinates says they are afraid of losing their job for doing what they are supposed to do now that two safety officials have been let go for raising concerns. The subcontractor denies that her termination was based on her complaints.

Federal and state laws prohibit an employer from terminating an employee retaliation for reporting safety concerns. Workers who believe that they are fired illegally may want to consult with an employment attorney who could bring an action for wrongful termination. A successful resolution could possibly result in reinstatement and the award of back pay.

Source: CBS News, "Second whistleblower Donna Busche fired at troubled Wash. State Hanford nuke plant", February 19, 2014

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