Bechtel Corp. and a subcontractor, Aecom, paid $58 million to settle claims of billing the Department of Energy for fraudulent labor expenses.
The two companies have been working together on the vitrification plant at Hanford in Washington, a $17 billion venture. The lawsuit dates back to 2017, and was filed by several current or former employees at the Hanford site who claimed they were retaliated against after reporting the issues with raising the issues with time-charging.
The Department of Justice joined in the lawsuit originally filed by the four employees, and it was unsealed this fall.
According to the lawsuit, the two companies routinely and knowingly overcharged the Department of Energy for time even when union construction workers did not have any work to do, including electricians, pipefitters and various other skilled workers. This conduct occurred between 2009 and 2019.
The construction workers at the Hanford site are not always guaranteed a full day’s work, but must be paid for at least two hours on any days on which they are scheduled to work. The lack of work they had that led to the overcharging was a result of a failure on the part of management to schedule enough work to keep them busy. But even when they were idle, the management still billed the Department of Energy.
The companies have been working on the vitrification plant since 2002, and it is scheduled to begin operation by the end of 2023. It will be turning radioactive waste held in underground tanks at the site into more stable gases that can be disposed.
If you are aware of any fraudulent activity committed by your company or organization, you have the right to federal protections when you blow the whistle on that activity. For more information about your legal options, contact an experienced whistleblower lawyer at Kardell Law Group.