Savannah River Site employee alleges retaliation, SRNS disagrees

In 2016, a scathing Government Accountability Office report landed former Savannah River Nuclear Solutions employee Sandra Black at a U.S. Senate news conference to tell her story about employer retaliation.

 

Late last month, the Department of Energy’s Office of Hearing and Appeals reinstated her to her previous position as the manager of the employee concerns program, but an employee from one of her previous cases claims retaliation at SRNS is still happening.

In late 2012, Richard Lusby was one of 10 employees in the SRNS Radiation Protection Department affected by job reassignments. Lusby said he was the only one adversely affected by the moves, which resulted in what he characterized as a 15 percent reduction in income.

“I am the sole provider for my family,” Lusby said. “We have three kids and my wife has health concerns that prevent her from working. A 15 percent income loss in a single-income family is a pretty significant loss.”

According to SRNS officials, the reassignments took place from October to November 2012 during the federal budget crisis. Lusby said he filed notification of family hardship with his managers and tried to keep his position.

His position as a first-line manager was not terminated, but filled by another employee. Lusby was moved to a “rotational” assignment in another department and email communications said his request to stay because of hardship was met with little concern or didn’t receive a response at all.

Lusby met with Black in October 2013. He said members of the employee concerns program agreed he could have been treated unfairly and was scheduled to meet with the senior vice president of the Environmental Stewardship, Safety and Health, and Human Relations staff.

According to Lusby, he was asked to take a position in Emergency Management near the end of 2013. He said he was told the department was “shorthanded” and was then sent a certified letter from the Energy Department declaring his complaint resolved.

“I finally agreed to take that position to help out the department. But I was clear that it didn’t restore my job or income and that my issue wasn’t resolved,” he said.

In April 2014, then-CEO Dwayne Wilson and Workforce Services and Talent Management Senior Vice President Carol Barry initiated an investigation into Lusby’s allegations. By June, that investigation was complete. Then, in a meeting with human resources personnel, he was told the case was closed and he never saw the investigation results, he said.

The finalized investigation and Lusby’s status as an exempt employee brought the case to a close. But Lusby said the fallout from his complaint continued. He has applied for five different positions within the Radiation Protection Department since the beginning of 2015 and has been declined each time.

Lusby worked as a first-line manager in RPD for eight years and has an associate’s degree in nuclear engineering, a bachelor of science degree in radiation protection and holds the National Registry of Radiation Protection Technologist certificate. With over 23 years of experience, Lusby said, he feels he has the credibility, experience and education to return to the management position where his performance was well-reviewed, according to performance evaluations.

In email correspondence with Energy Department Employee Concerns Specialists, Lusby alleges he was moved to the rotational assignment in late 2012 because of a statement his former manager made on his behalf. According to his official complaint filed with the DOE, the manager allegedly told leadership Lusby wanted the rotational assignment. Lusby said he never made that statement. The manager would later serve on three of the five interview panels for positions Lusby was vying for.

Lusby met with the Radiation Protection Department Manager in January 2016 to discuss retaliation allegations against the lower management team. He alleges the department head assured him the manager would no longer be on his interview panels.

In an email sent to SRNS Chief General Counsel Investigator Mark Austin, Lusby said he had a closed-door meeting with another interview panelist and was told he was the best qualified applicant and performed best in interviews. Lusby said he was told during that meeting his 2013 complaint would keep him out of radiation protection.

In April 2016, representatives from the Energy Department arranged a meeting between Lusby, SRNS Executive Vice President and COO David Eyler, and SRNS general counsel. Eyler denied any wrongdoing on the company’s behalf.

Later in the month, Lusby outlined his concerns in an email to his former manager; the interview panelist he said was responsible for retaliation. He asked for a meeting to “iron all of this out.” In response, the SRNS deputy general counsel blocked the arbitration meeting from happening because Lusby’s complaint was still active.

In June, more than 75 days after the meeting with Eyler, Lusby received an email from the SRNS Chief General Counsel Investigator Mark Austin. Austin told him Eyler had directed a formal investigation be undertaken into Lusby’s case.

Nearly a year since that meeting with Eyler, Lusby has not been given results of the investigation. A copy of investigation results has been requested from SRNS. The company says his allegations were invalidated.

“Every allegation mentioned has been investigated and found not to be substantiated. The move to a new position in 2012 was the result of a reduction in the budget for the department which resulted in the movement of 10 employees in the same position as Mr. Lusby,” an SRNS spokeswoman said.

“In addition, Mr. Lusby filed a 10 CFR 708 complaint with DOE-SR Employee Concerns Program, which was dismissed by DOE-SR. Mr. Lusby’s appeal of the DOE-SR decision with DOE’s Office of Hearings and Appeals was denied as well on May 16, 2016,” she said.

In 2009, Lusby was diagnosed with cancer. Correspondence from Augusta Oncology and an independent medical review from Moore Forensic Consulting in Irmo, S.C., connect his diagnosis to work with a chemical used on site known as trichloroethylene.

Lusby went through six cycles of chemotherapy and is in full remission. He said his biggest concern is his health declines and with only one income, made smaller by the reassignment, his family could face hardship.

“I want a shot to get back in and do the job I was good at, the job that provided for my family. If I have the education, the experience and the high quality performance review, why should I be kept out of radiology protection?”

 

Reach Thomas Gardiner at (706) 823-3339 or thomas.gardiner@augustachronicle.com.

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