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Regional News | Article published Friday, August 1, 2003
Ex-Davis-Besse worker contests firing, seeks whistleblower shield

By TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER


A Toledoan claims FirstEnergy Corp. illegally fired him from his job at Davis-Besse because he accused a supervisor of being hostile.

James M. Spencer, who had worked at the plant for three years as a chemistry technician, said he was fired on June 2 because he had asked for an investigation into remarks that allegedly were made on Dec. 28 when he informed a supervisor he was leaving three hours earlier than his scheduled 12-hour shift ended because he was ill.

His supervisor allegedly uttered: "I’m gonna beat your ass!" a lawsuit Mr. Spencer filed yesterday in Ottawa County Common Pleas Court stated.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has told FirstEnergy it will not receive authorization to restart Davis-Besse until it has proven that its workplace is void of intimidation and encourages employees to come forward with their concerns.

Mr. Spencer’s attorney, Howard Whitcomb III, said his client’s complaint about the alleged verbal harassment was ignored by the company - despite FirstEnergy’s promises that it is fostering a conducive workplace.

Mr. Whitcomb claims his client is entitled to whistleblower protection under the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 and the Ohio Whistleblower’s Act because he was intimidated, reprimanded, and subsequently fired "in retaliation for his having reported safety concerns."

A disciplinary letter that was issued to Mr. Spencer on Jan. 15 suggested his decision to leave early could have resulted in injury to plant personnel or damage to plant equipment. But that letter was subsequently removed from his personnel file on Jan. 28 because Mr. Spencer had followed the same procedure some other employees had in the past when leaving early, according to William Rayburn, nuclear chemistry supervisor.

"We would not fire someone for raising safety concerns. We would, however, fire someone for falsifying documents," Richard Wilkins, FirstEnergy spokesman, said.

FirstEnergy claims Mr. Spencer was dismissed because he falsified an annual qualification record necessary for him to continue his employment.

The allegation was denied in the suit. It claims Mr. Spencer was wrongfully terminated because a supervisor allegedly removed the document in question from Mr. Spencer’s desk and presented it to management without his knowledge.



More articles on this subject »
NRC flags Davis-Besse for another safety glitch 08/01/2003
Plants replacing reactor heads 07/31/2003
Davis-Besse outage costs almost $450M 07/25/2003
Test failure pushes back Davis-Besse restart effort 07/10/2003
NRC promotion provokes criticism 07/09/2003

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