Magazine article Workforce Management

Protecting Whistle-Blowers

Magazine article Workforce Management

Protecting Whistle-Blowers

Article excerpt

The Hanford Site nuclear facility in southeastern Washington state has been a source of contention for decades, rife with whistle-blower complaints, lawsuits and allegations of retaliation. To quell complaints, a workers' council was launched 20 years ago to find a resolution before further escalation.

At the time, "a lot of Hanford workers had made allegations of reprisals for raising safety concerns," says Tom Carpenter, executive director of the not-for-profit Hanford Challenge and a founding member of the workers' council.

Workers spoke of having security teams deployed to investigate whistle-blowers who were subjected to surveillance, forced psychological reviews and even assault. Security "approached whistle-blowers like they were traitors or spies, and they referred to them in those terms," Carpenter says.

The ongoing strife prompted the Washington State Ecology Department to request that the University of Washington study the problems and recommend a course of action. That resulted in the creation of the Hanford Joint Council for Resolving Employee Concerns, now known as the Hanford Concerns Council.

The council was formed according to state mediation laws, and members include company representatives, advocacy group members and independent parties.

The 586-square-mile Hanford Site houses nine former nuclear reactors and their processing facilities. Reactor construction started in 1943 to produce plutonium for atomic weapons. The reactors were shut down in 1987, and today an enormous environmental cleanup is under way to remediate decades of damage. …

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