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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