August 22, 2014

Whistleblower Spotlight — Hanford Whistleblower Shelly Doss

By the C|C Whistleblower Lawyer Team

This week’s “Whistleblower Spotlight” shines on Shelly Doss, a former environmental compliance specialist with Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS), an environmental cleanup contractor for the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.  Located in central Washington, Hanford made plutonium for nuclear weapons for decades and now is the country’s largest environmental cleanup site with more than 150 underground tanks containing highly radioactive sludge.  In October 2011, WRPS fired Ms. Doss after she raised numerous environmental, safety and radiation-related issues with management at the site.  She had worked at Hanford for more than twenty years.  Apparently, she was just one of several employees fired after raising health and safety concerns at the facility.  See Hanford Challenge Press Release.

Ms. Doss filed a whistleblower retaliation action with the Department of Labor and, as just made public on Wednesday, the government agreed with her charge.  The government found that “every time [Ms. Doss] voiced an environmental or nuclear safety concern, [WRPS] took her off that project until she hardly had any work assignments left.  [She] was slowly stripped of her job duties.”  Galen Lemke, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration acting regional administrator, said in connection with the ruling: “Employees must never be punished for sounding an alarm when they see a problem that could injure, sicken or kill someone, or harm the environment.”  Under the government’s decision, Ms. Doss will be reinstated to her former position at WRPS, a subsidiary of URS Corporation, and the company will pay her $220,000 in back wages and punitive damages.

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One Response to “Whistleblower Spotlight — Hanford Whistleblower Shelly Doss

  1. If she or (DOE and WRPS) disagree with PART or all of OSHA’s findings or order, they can ask for an evidentiary hearing, within 30 days, before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The OSHA ALJ can change or modify the decision. If either party does not like the ALJ decision before an administrative review board (of 3 judges). OSHA’s initial finding took 3 years.
    Now the decision could go before an ALJ and THEN to the ARM for a final agency order. 210 days after this final agency order, she may take it to civil court.

    Being familiar with latest round of layoffs at Hanford this sounds like one of the “laid off” workers had enough documentation to try to keep her job. There are many others that were laid off at the same time as her but didn’t have complaints to try to claim whistleblower status. So I guess she’s claiming her layoff was a firing unlike the other 200 other lay offs. (yes, I know first OSHA finding was a firing.) Well good for her for documenting her on job complaints. But looks like she may have years more to wait if this goes all the way through the OSHA process. Getting on TV and crying as to why it’s taking so long comes across and whining…. Good Luck and congrats on getting the media to cover and interview the whining/crying.