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Department of Labor Finds that TVA Continues to Retaliate Against Whistleblowers Who Report Important Nuclear Safety Issues

Date: September 12, 2019

Contact: Lynne Bernabei ([email protected]) 202-644-9935 or 202-745-2627
Alan Kabat ([email protected]) 202-644-9935
Bernabei & Kabat, PLLC (1400 – 16th Street N.W., Suite 500, Washington D.C.)

The U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued a strongly worded report finding that the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) retaliated against a senior manager represented by Bernabei & Kabat, PLLC, after she reported multiple nuclear safety-related issues that affected all of TVA’s nuclear power plants. This finding confirms that TVA is continuing its longstanding practice of retaliating against nuclear whistleblowers that has persisted for over 30 years since the mid-1980s.

She reported significant safety problems, including violations of the “Fatigue Rule,” which is designed to prevent nuclear operators from working excessive hours. She also reported that TVA was still failing to address the “chilled work environment” which prevents nuclear employees from reporting significant safety issues because they fear retaliation. Instead, TVA used its internal investigation of the “chilled work environment” to fire our client, because she honestly reported her concerns about retaliation when she was interviewed by TVA.

OSHA found that TVA gave false reasons for terminating our client. OSHA found that TVA “terminated [her] because of the information she provided during [TVA’s] chilled work environment investigation.” Thus, OSHA concluded that TVA’s conduct violated the federal whistleblower protections for nuclear employees.

Lynne Bernabei said that “the Nuclear Regulatory Commission needs to take serious action against TVA for its over three decades of retaliation against nuclear whistleblowers, because TVA has not changed since the 1980s.”

TVA has now claimed to the press that this finding was an “old issue” and that the chilled work environment issue was limited to Watts Bar. In fact, the retaliation that led to OSHA’s current finding occurred in 2018 and early 2019. Our law firm has represented dozens if not hundreds of TVA employees and contractors at both the headquarters and all of the nuclear sites, confirming that the chilled work environment is TVA-wide and has persisted for several decades.