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WBA-12-0004 - In the Matter of Denise Hunter

On April 29, 2014, the Director of OHA denied an Appeal involving an Initial Agency Decision issued in response to a  complaint filed by Denise Hunter (Hunter) against the Whitestone Group under the DOE’s Contractor Employee Protection Program and its governing regulations set forth at 10 C.F.R. Part 708. In the Initial Agency Decision (IAD), the Hearing Officer found that Hunter had made a protected disclosure, concerning theft of official equipment, and had participated in a protected activity, filing a Part 708 Complaint. The Hearing Officer also found that these actions were a contributing factor in Hunter’s termination by Whitestone and that Whitestone had not provided clear and convincing evidence that it would have terminated Hunter notwithstanding her protected disclosure and activity. Consequently, the Hearing Officer awarded Hunter back pay and attorney’s fees. Whitestone appealed the Hearing Officer’s findings that Hunter’s disclosure and her filing of the Whistleblower Complaint were protected activities. Specifically Whitestone argued that Hunter never alleged that these activities were a contributing factor in her termination. The Director of OHA found that the Hearing Officer findings with regard to the contributory nature disclosure and the filing of the Part 708 Complaint were proper despite the fact that Hunter never explicitly claimed that these events were a contributing factor in her termination. Additionally, the Director of OHA found that, even accepting Whitestone’s claim that Hunter allegedly falsely prepared a form to support her Part 708 complaint, such an action would not subject her to workplace discipline by Whitestone. Further, the Director of OHA found that Whitestone had failed to provide clear and convincing evidence that it would have terminated Hunter notwithstanding her protected activities. Consequently, the Director denied Hunter’s Appeal.