Lawsuit over Hanford firing moves to arbitration

By Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldMarch 17, 2014 

A lawsuit filed in federal court by two labor organizations against the Hanford tank farm contractor has been dismissed.

The lawsuit was filed over collective bargaining agreements that the Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council (HAMTC) said were violated by the firing of four employees after they pleaded guilty to timecard fraud.

The case was dismissed after Washington River Protection Solutions agreed to arbitration, which was HAMTC's goal, said HAMTC president Dave Molnaa.

HAMTC and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 984 filed the lawsuit.

The case was dismissed by Judge Edward Shea "with prejudice," which means it cannot be refiled.

Washington River Protection Solutions declined to comment and had not responded to allegations in the lawsuit before it was dismissed.

The timecard fraud happened while the four employees were working for the previous Hanford tank farm contractor, CH2M Hill Hanford Group.

HAMTC alleged that Washington River Protection Solutions violated the "just cause" provisions of a collective bargaining agreement.

Under an 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.

Collective bargaining agreements said that disputes are subject to arbitration, according to HAMTC.

HAMTC asked the court to either require Washington River Protection Solutions to submit to binding arbitration or to require the contractor to rehire the workers with full back pay.

CH2M Hill agreed a year ago to pay $18.5 million to settle civil and criminal allegations of defrauding taxpayers through widespread timecard fraud at Hanford.

It remains employed as a Hanford contractor, Molnaa pointed out. Although CH2M Hill's tank farm contract expired, it was awarded a contract for central Hanford and groundwater cleanup.

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

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