Hanford Whistleblower Case Comes to $4.1 Million Settlement

A former employee at a nuclear weapons cleanup project run by Hanford recently came to a $4.1 million settlement in a lawsuit alleging the company retaliated against him for speaking up about questionable safety practices.

The employee and plaintiff in the case was Walter Tamosaitis, who had been a contractor at the Hanford site in eastern Washington. The dispute had been going on for years and was at the center of a controversy over a large cleanup project — one that was perhaps the most expensive in the history of the United States.

A massive environmental cleanup

Starting during World War II, Hanford created a significant amount of plutonium meant for nuclear weapons before it eventually stopped production in the 1980s. The work created a great deal of contamination, which, according to government estimates, will take decades and tens of billions of dollars to clean up. However, certain aspects of Hanford’s cleanup effort have been hampered by delays and escalated costs, which have drawn criticism from investigators. Members of Congress have also questioned whether the company’s workers who brought up safety concerns might be getting unfairly punished for their actions.

When he testified in 2011 in front of a U.S. Senate subcommittee, Dr. Tamosaitis said he was removed from a multibillion-dollar project involving the treatment of millions of gallons of radioactive waste because he raised valid technical and safety concerns on multiple occasions. He was discharged from his position in 2013. His employer, URS Corp., claimed he was laid off because of budget constraints.

URS (under the ownership of Aecom) has reached the settlement to avoid litigation, but admits no wrongdoing. If you need to investigate a whistleblower claim within your organization, consult the knowledgeable Dallas attorneys at Whistleblower Law for Managers.