She ran the complaints department at Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS), and was responsible for helping employees lodge safety concerns and handle disputes. Her department investigated safety and illegal practices complaints to protect the employees that lodged the complaints, but earlier this year she was fired for the same reason her department exists.
Did A Whistleblowing Investigation Lead To Whistleblowing Retaliation?
In the 1990s, a disturbing trend started to rear its ugly head at the Department of Energy (DOE). Cases of whistleblowing were happening at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and at the Savannah River nuclear facilities—cases were springing up all over the nation—but few of them were resulting in fines or settlements and the employees that complained were finding themselves unemployed. These reports prompted a governmental response and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) went into action.
Investigators from GAO scoured DOE facilities and contractors, trying to find out if whistleblowing retaliation was becoming a regular occurrence at the DOE, when they came to interview the Georgia woman who had worked for 35 years investigating complaints at SRNS. She told the GOA investigators that her supervisors often impeded investigations, asked her to change reports, and asked for employee names during her work. This meant that the company was in violation of whistleblower retaliation laws, and the company didn’t like that this secret had been exposed.
Weeks after disclosing her conversation with GAO to her employers, the woman was fired for “unsatisfactory” job performance. It was her first and only disciplinary reprimand. Over her 35-year-career she had resolved cases involving exploding gases, poor air quality, and radiological controls. She had even received positive performance reviews. Now she finds herself in the very situation she has protected so many SRNS employees from.
What Is Being Done About Whistleblower Retaliation?
Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden—who called on GAO to investigate the allegations of whistleblower retaliation at the DOE—has heard this woman’s story and can’t believe how bad the problem has become. The report from GAO is expected to be delivered soon, and a new wave of changes is expected to hit the DOE and all of its contractors—like SRNS.
Whistleblowing is not only protected by law, retaliation against whistleblowing is also illegal. Sometimes companies ignore this fact, which is why it’s important to contact a Georgia whistleblower attorney. An attorney can help you plan a strategy to prevent retaliation from an employer, and if your employer does retaliate, they can help you fight back!
This message has been brought to you by the Georgia whistleblower attorneys at the McArthur Law Firm—If you need a lawyer, why not choose the best?