Labor Dept: TVA illegally fired whistleblower

KNOXVILLE (AP) — The U.S. Department of Labor has ruled in favor of a nuclear engineer who says the Tennessee Valley Authority fired her in retaliation for reporting safety and personnel concerns.

The Labor Department is ordering the utility to restore Beth Wetzel’s job and compensate her more than $200,000 in back pay, lost benefits, damages and legal fees, according to the Labor Department order obtained by the Knoxville News Sentinel.

TVA said it fired Wetzel for insubordination because she spoke negatively about supervisor Erin Henderson, but the Labor Department ruled Wetzel properly raised safety concerns and gave “honest” testimony about Henderson’s performance during an internal work environment investigation.

TVA disagrees with the findings and will appeal, spokesman Scott Brooks told the newspaper.

The complaint began in 2016, shortly after Henderson was promoted to the director of regulatory affairs role after fewer than six years with the utility, the Labor Department filings show. From then until 2018, Wetzel filed a series of nuclear safety complaints with Henderson and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, including alleged violations of worker fatigue rules.

Henderson filed a complaint herself claiming Wetzel and other nuclear oversight staffers who reported the safety concerns were creating a “hostile work environment,” the Labor Department ruling detailed.

An in-house attorney began probing the work environment complaint and asked Wetzel for her opinion on Henderson, to which Wetzel responded that Henderson was “too young” to be director and could be “vindictive,” the Labor Department order documented.

Wetzel was fired for insubordination in October 2018, after which she filed her wrongful termination complaint with the Labor Department. The federal agency ruled that TVA’s rationale for releasing Wetzel couldn’t be supported, and the employer instead “took adverse action” against Wetzel because of her participation in the investigation.

Wetzel is the fourth TVA nuclear oversight staffer to claim retaliation for raising safety concerns in the past year, the newspaper said.

Local news

Three indicted in connection to overdose death in Johnson City

Local news

Sullivan County launches Health Council to spearhead community wellness initiatives

Church News

To desire to be wanted

Local news

Muster at Fort Watauga May 18-19 will feature 18th Century Frontier Exhibition

Church News

Church Briefs

Church News

Benefit concert for Isaiah 117 House planned at First Baptist

Community

Watts Dance Studio to present 72nd Annual Spring Recital at Milligan University

Local news

U.S. House Republicans pass bill to stop census from counting noncitizens

Local news

Innovative partnership at ETSU is producing real-world change

Local news

Food City becomes the official grocery partner of Dollywood Parks & Resorts

Local news

Northeast State celebrates students at annual Honors Convocation

Local news

Raising chickens from hatchling to hen: A guide to poultry care

BREAKING NEWS

Severe weather alert issued for southwest North Carolina, east Tennessee, and southwest Virginia

Local news

Northeast State celebrates 853 spring graduates

Local news

Quillen College of Medicine promotes four graduates into military

Local news

Johnson City man arrested on drug charges

Local news

Road construction to impact traffic on University Parkway near West State of Franklin

Local news

Report: More than 59,000 Tennessee kids lose health coverage post-COVID

Local news

Touch of Beauty Salon celebrates grand opening with ribbon cutting ceremony

Local news

Treasurer, daughter plead guilty to theft charges at Elizabethton Church

Local news

Assistant district attorney suspended after arrest on DUI, gun-related charges

Local news

A Life Lived: Irene Carrier was always lending a ‘helping hand’

Local news

ETSU Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy celebrates graduates

Local news

Whitehead Cemetery Assoc. plans Memorial Day Gathering