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Monday, May 4, 2015

DOE whistle blower and retaliation

"Do DOE Contractor workers really have at their disposal, prompt DOE "zero-tolerance" support against Contractor acts of retaliation for making a whistleblower "protected disclosure"?" 

How the DOE IG and NNSA respond to a “protected disclosure” appear to be strongly driven if not dominated, by potential liability facing the DOE Contractor, with protection of the employee bringing forward the disclosure, of little or no concern. Will this lead to more DOE Complex accidents and Contractor indiscretions? See two contrasting DOE IG protocols from past DOE IG reports:

DOE/Contractor Investigation Protocol A: 

The DOE IG receives a concern alleging Contractor Facility issues, but the employee or "hotline" caller, does NOT assert “whistleblower” status and does NOT claim Contractor retaliation for making the disclosure. 

In this case, there is a clearly defined DOE IG Investigation "objective", "scope", and "methodology" when direct Contractor to employee harm or employee retaliation is neither explicitly stated nor implied, and as such, the Contractor generally cooperates with the DOE IG. Please see web link below “DOE IG INS-O-13-06”. Report “DOE IG INS-O-13-06” clearly identifies weak areas in safety, security, potential misuse or theft of explosives, weakness in access controls, training, inventory controls, and contradictory Facility procedures. However, the set of DOE IG findings were subsequently qualified by “did not find any incidents” relating to the identified Facility weaknesses. Again, Contractor liability for an incident, accident, or employee retaliation, relating to the set of DOE IG findings, is very clearly stated to have NOT occurred in the DOE IG Report.

DOE/Contractor Investigation Protocol B: 

The DOE IG receives a concern alleging Contractor Facility issues, by an employee that DOES assert “whistleblower” status and claims DIRECT Contractor
harm or retaliation for making the disclosure. See web link below “DOE IG-0923 Donna Busche”:

“…Ms. Busche asserted “whistleblower” status based on the disclosure of what she believed to be technical and safety concerns regarding the WTP. She also asserted that her termination was in retaliation for these disclosures

“…Attorneys representing both Bechtel and URS stated that the assertion of privilege was necessary given the likelihood of litigation regarding the Busche matter…”

“…despite efforts by senior Department officials, we did not have access to the full inventory of documents which we felt were necessary to conduct our review. Thus, we were unable to complete our inquiry and accordingly disclaim any opinion regarding the circumstances of Ms. Busche’s termination…”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is clearly a DOE Contractor retaliation enabling DOE policy, that in practice, discourages employees from speaking out on probable or imminent safety issues. Hopefully this has not resulted in direct injury or loss of life within the Complex.

The DOE "zero tolerance" for retaliation policy appears to have failed Donna Busche at the Bechtel and URS managed Hanford Site "Waste Treatment Plant". If the DOE IG gets the Contractor door shut in their face, how would the DOE assigned "whistleblower" investigator do any better to determine the merits of a pending Contractor employee complaint?


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