Lawsuit filed over Hanford timecard fraud firings

Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 8, 2014 

Work underway at the Hanford tank farms.

HERALD FILE

Two labor organizations are suing the Hanford tank farm contractor in federal court over the firing of four employees who pleaded guilty to timecard fraud.

The Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 984 filed the complaint against Washington River Protection Solutions, which dismissed the employees in September 2013.

However, the timecard fraud occurred while Darin Judy, Doug Mallory, Rhonda Stamper and Tom Huebner were employed by Hanford's previous tank farm contractor, CH2M Hill Hanford Group.

Under a collective bargaining agreement signed in January 2009, HAMTC, Local 984 and Washington River Protection Solutions agreed that several union workers would receive written disciplinary warnings for alleged misconduct related to an investigation by the Department of Energy Office of Inspector General, according to the lawsuit.

The three parties agreed that the written warnings would be the last action related to the issue for the employees, who included the four workers named in the lawsuit, according to the legal complaint. In return, HAMTC and Local 984 would withdraw grievances related to disciplinary actions, according to the legal complaint.

In addition, Washington River Protection Solutions agreed to abide by a collective bargaining agreement signed by CH2M Hill in 2007 and a new collective bargaining agreement that took effect last month, according to the lawsuit.

The four employees were fired without just cause as defined by the agreements, the lawsuit said.

The two agreements also said that disputes are subject to arbitration, but that Washington River Protection Solutions had refused to arbitrate the firing of the four employees, the lawsuit said.

The labor organizations ask that the court find the Hanford contractor breached at least one of the three collective bargaining agreements and require that it rehire the workers with full back pay and benefits. As an alternative, it asks that Washington River Protection Solutions be required to submit to binding arbitration.

Washington River Protection Solutions has not responded in court to the lawsuit filed in late January, but told the Herald it would review the complaint. It made no further comment.

All four fired workers have entered plea agreements, but have not been sentenced as the U.S. Attorney's Office in Spokane prosecutes 10 current and former Hanford upper managers and supervisors for alleged timecard fraud when they worked for CH2M Hill Hanford Group.

Stamper, Judy and Mallory worked as radiological control technicians. They all claimed a full eight hours of overtime pay when they worked overtime shifts, although federal prosecutors said they often worked fewer hours. The practice used to be common at the tank farms, where 56 million gallons of radioactive waste from the past production of weapons plutonium are held in underground tanks, according to court documents.

Huebner was a lead radiological control technician and offered overtime to workers in eight-hour blocks under upper management's direction even though he knew workers routinely left early, according to court documents.

In a plea agreement, he agreed to pay a fine of $26,631 and not to appeal if sentenced to a prison term of a year or less.

Judy agreed to pay a fine of $108,073 and not to appeal if sentenced to no more than 16 months in prison. Mallory agreed to pay $56,141 and not to appeal if he receives a prison term of no more than a year. Stamper has agreed to pay a fine of $119,495.

CH2M Hill agreed last year to pay $18.5 million to the federal government to settle civil and criminal allegations of defrauding taxpayers through widespread timecard fraud when it was the Hanford tank farm contractor.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @HanfordNews

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