RICHLAND -- A former manager at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is claiming he lost his job after raising issues of alleged fraud and safety.
Gary McNair has filed a lawsuit in Benton County Superior Court against Battelle, which operates the national lab in Richland for the Department of Energy. Battelle had the lawsuit moved to the U.S. District Court.
Battelle has countered in court documents that McNair lost his job for "willful violations of company policy regarding handling of radioactive sources." The allegations are without merit, and Battelle plans to vigorously defend the case, it said in a statement.
McNair was the manager of a large technology field operation called the Air Cargo Explosives Demonstration Pilot Project at PNNL under a contract with the Transportation Security Administration.
While managing the project he raised safety concerns, according to his court complaint. As the project concluded, Battelle removed him and his colleagues from the assignment of preparing a report for the Transportation Security Administration, according to court documents.
The report, then prepared by a different employee picked by Battelle, "strayed from data accumulated during the project, which misuse of data raised security and safety concerns," according to McNair's court filing.
McNair and one of his colleagues asked that their names not be on the report, and Battelle agreed initially, according to court documents filed by McNair's attorney, George Fearing of Kennewick.
The report was issued in June 2008, but McNair was not allowed to review it until late in the year. That's when he saw his name was on the report, according to court documents. He told Battelle then that using his name on the report was fraudulent, he said in court documents.
"As a result of plaintiff raising issues of fraud and safety, defendant, within the last three years, removed plaintiff from a management position and assigned plaintiff menial tasks, which required significant travel," according to McNair's court documents.
Later, McNair was told he would be fired, leading him to take early retirement, according to court documents.
Battelle countered that McNair lost his job for not following company policy in handling radioactive material and failing to comply with instructions from supervisors, according to court documents.
A pattern of disregard for management instruction and company procedures put McNair's and others' safety at risk, according to Battelle's court documents.
McNair was warned that future incidents would lead to disciplinary action, possibly including termination, according to Battelle's court documents.
Battelle said another employee was assigned to prepare the report on the Transportation Security Administration project because of problems with the initial report prepared by McNair.
McNair is asking for damages for lost income and benefits, impaired earning capacity and emotional distress. He's also asking for attorney fees.