Nuclear power whistleblower’s case is noteworthy

As engineers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant investigate indications of a dangerous reactor vessel leak, the whistleblower case of William Vinnett comes to mind.  Vinnett reportedly was concerned about “technical errors, procedural deficiencies, and damage to a pressurized vessel” at Palisades Nuclear Power Plant, where he worked as a field project engineer employed by Mitsubishi Power Systems.

Vinnett filed a whistleblower complaint under the Energy Reorganization Act (ERA) with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Vinnett v. Mitsubishi Power Systems, DOL ARB Case No. 08-104). A decision by the Department of Labor Administrative Review Board reversed the decision of an administrative law judge who ruled Vinnett could not pursue a whistleblower claim if reporting the problems was a requirement of his duties.

The Board has never taken the position that an employee’s job duties can remove him from the whistle-blower protection provisions of the ERA,” the Administrative Review Board stated. “There is nothing in the language of the ERA that carves out an exception limiting whistle-blower protection based on an employee’s job duties.” [Society for Human Resource Management]

The review board also took the administrative law judge to task for denying a reasonable request–a judicial order compelling MPS to produce documents that might show that MPS was motivated by Vinnett’s complaints to fire him.  Whistleblowers complain frequently to WSCA that administrative law judges are lax about providing basic due process, and it is therefore encouraging to learn of this ruling.