Hanford

URS asks judge to dismiss Tamosaitis case

URS Energy and Construction is asking a judge to award it summary judgment to end the whistleblower lawsuit brought by former Hanford vitrification plant employee Walter Tamosaitis.

It is the last defendant standing in legal action brought by Tamosaitis in Eastern Washington District U.S. Court.

Tamosaitis alleges he was removed from work at the vitrification plant for raising issues about the future safe operation of the plant.

URS and Bechtel National, the prime contractor on the project, have strongly denied that. Bechtel said work was wrapping up for Tamosaitis, the research and technology manager, and plans already had been made to reassign him when he wrote an email that upset officials.

Since then, construction on key parts of the plant has been slowed to address technical issues that could affect operation of the plant.

URS is arguing that Bechtel made the decision to remove Tamosaitis from the project and it did not know about the decision until his removal was in process. URS is Bechtel's subcontractor and continues to employ Tamosaitis. Its contract with Bechtel allows Bechtel to remove any URS employee from the project it deems objectionable, according to URS.

Tamosaitis was escorted from his office building July 2, 2010. After the Independence Day holiday, URS believed it had reached an agreement with Bechtel to reinstate Tamosaitis on the project, only to be told July 8 by Bechtel that he could not return to the project, according to court documents.

URS also raised an argument that was successful for DOE and URS's parent company, both of which have been released from the lawsuit by federal Judge Lonny Suko.

Tamosaitis filed an administrative case before the Department of Labor on July 30, 2010, naming URS, Inc. The correct name of his employer is URS Energy and Construction and its parent company is URS Corp.

The complaint was not amended to name URS Energy and Construction until Sept. 1, 2011. Six days later, Tamosaitis gave notice that he planned to move the case to federal court, because the Department of Labor had not acted within a one-year deadline, and filed a lawsuit Nov. 9, 2011.

The Energy Reorganization Act requires that the case stay with the Department of Labor for a full year without action to exhaust administrative remedies before a lawsuit may be filed in federal court. But URS is arguing that it was not named in the Department of Labor complaint for a full year.

Suko earlier ruled that its parent company and the Department of Energy had not been in the administrative action for a full year, giving the federal court no jurisdiction over those cases.

Tamosaitis plans to appeal the decision dismissing DOE as a defendant in the case, but he may not be able to until a judgment is filed, which could come at the conclusion of the case for all the defendants.

Tamosaitis' attorney, Jack Sheridan, has filed a motion asking for the judgment regarding DOE to be entered now, but DOE has opposed the motion.

Tamosaitis also sued Bechtel in Benton County Superior Court, and the lawsuit was dismissed. That ruling is being appealed.

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