A complaint filed by an engineer working at the Hanford Nuclear site, asserts that the Department of Energy has engaged in a pattern of supporting whistleblower retaliation. Walter Tamosaitis, an engineer working for URS Corp. at the Hanford Nuclear site, alleges that he was assigned menial duties after he raised safety concerns about the URS Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant.
Under the Energy Reorganization Act, employers are barred from discharging or discriminating against any employee who has engaged in protected activity by notifying their employer of energy violations. Tamosaitis’ complaint states he was targeted by the DOE Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management, Ines Triay, DOE site manager at the Hanford Office of River Protection, Shirley Olinger, and DOE federal project director for the WTP project, Dale Knudson after he raised his safety concerns. Furthermore, Tamosaitis contends that Knudson was directly involved in Tamosaitis’ transfer from the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant.
Moreover, the complaint alleges that the DOE stands behind contractors who engage in whistleblower retaliation rather than the whistleblower. In the present matter, DOE managers purportedly aided URS in carrying out unsafe practices at the Hanford Waste and Treatment Plant, and in some cases, the DOE turned a blind eye to contractor retaliation against employees who opposed unsafe conditions.
Considering the government’s growing interest in whistleblower protection and the cunningness of employers to hide their retaliatory motives, it will be interesting to see what the court’s position, if any, will be.