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LWA-0010 - In the Matter of Howard W. Spaletta

This Decision involves a whistleblower complaint filed by Howard W. Spaletta (Spaletta) under the Department of Energy's (DOE) Contractor Employee Protection Program. From 1970 through May 1992 when he retired, Spaletta was employed as a metallurgical engineer at DOE's Idaho National Engineering Laboratory (INEL). For a number of years, EG&G, Idaho, Inc. (Contractor) was the management and operating contractor at INEL, and Mr. Spaletta was employed by EG&G Idaho at the time he filed his complaint.(1) Spaletta alleges that the Contractor retaliated against him for making health and safety disclosures to EG&G upper-level management, DOE's Idaho Operations Office (ID), DOE's Office of Inspector General, members of Congress, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Spaletta maintains that because he made disclosures the Contractor (1) referred fewer and less important work assignments to him, (2) lowered his annual merit pay increases, (3) required him to take unpaid leave during a 1990 Christmas holiday curtailment of operations, and (4) constructively terminated him.(2)

After bringing his allegations of reprisal to the attention of a number of governmental entities, Spaletta filed a complaint with ID on April 14, 1992. ID was unable to resolve the complaint and forwarded it to the DOE’s Office of Contractor Employee Protection (OCEP). OCEP investigated Spaletta’s complaint and issued a Report of Investigation and Proposed Disposition on May 12, 1994. In its Proposed Disposition, OCEP found that Spaletta had made protected disclosures and thereafter the Contractor had retaliated against him by referring fewer work assignments to him and by reducing his annual merit pay increases. At the same time, OCEP found that Spaletta had not shown that the Contractor had retaliated against him by failing to assign him important and meaningful work, by requiring him to solicit work, or by requiring him to take unpaid leave during a Christmas 1990 holiday curtailment of work. In a letter dated June 7, 1994, Spaletta requested a hearing before an Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) Hearing Officer to challenge OCEP’s findings and conclusions.