On August 5, 2013, a Hearing Officer issued an Initial Agency Decision involving a complaint filed by Denise Hunter against The Whitestone Group (Whitestone) under the DOE’s Contractor Employee Protection Program and its governing regulations set forth at 10 C.F.R. Part 708. In her complaint, Ms. Hunter alleged that she was placed on probation and later terminated in retaliation for activity protected under Part 708. The complainant alleged that she made disclosures pertaining to (1) Whitestone’s improper billing practices, (2) Whitestone’s failure to complete a required pre-employment check on a new employee, and (3) the theft of official property and Whitestone’s failure to report that theft. The Hearing Officer found, with regard to the first alleged disclosure, that the complainant did not reasonably believe that her disclosure revealed a substantial violation of a rule, and therefore had not made a “disclosure” as that term is used in Part 708. With regard to the second disclosure, the Hearing Officer found that the company officials responsible for the probation and the termination did not have actual or constructive knowledge of the disclosure, and therefore the disclosure was not a contributing factor in either personnel action. The Hearing Officer found that the complainant met her burden of establishing that third disclosure was a protected activity under Part 708, as was her filing of a Part 708 Complaint, of which the company official responsible for her termination had actual knowledge at the time of his decision. He also found that the termination followed in close temporal proximity to both the third disclosure and the company’s receipt of the Complaint.
Having determined that the complainant had met her burden under Part 708, the Hearing Officer then considered the company’s argument and found that it had not met its burden of showing that it would have terminated Ms. Hunter even if she had not engaged in protected activity. The Hearing Officer therefore concluded that the complainant was entitled to relief under Part 708 and ordered the parties to submit calculations of relief.
William Schwartz - Hearing Officer