Editor’s Note: As whistleblowers at the federal level reveal illegal and unethical actions in the Trump administration, La Jicarita continues to follow New Mexico’s homegrown whistleblower, Anthony Rivera, who, as we’ve previously reported, exposed unsafe working conditions at Livermore National Laboratory, LANL’s weapons lab sister in California. After revealing safety and management abuses at the Lab he was fired by the new contractor, Lawrence Livermore National Security (LLNS) in 2013. In January of 2014 he filed a Department of Energy (DOE) 708 Whistleblower complaint against LLNS, which alleges LLNS retaliation for his complaints. After a year of waiting for DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz to review his whistleblower complaint, he filed a lawsuit on January 19, 2016 against the LLNS and two Department of Energy officials. The DOE agreed to hear Rivera’s whistleblower case but after failing to have his petition reviewed by either former Secretary Moniz or current Secretary Perry he took his case to the court of appeals. This is the latest action in the case.
October 12, 2019
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FEDERAL COURTS MUST SAFEGUARD WHISTLEBLOWER’S RIGHTS,
SAN FRANCISCO LAWYER SAYS IN NUCLEAR WEAPONS LAB CASE
(San Francisco, Oct. 12, 2019) — Atty. Tony Bothwell today told the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California that “the government must be required to protect whistleblowers [who] have the courage to disclose practices that harm workers, the public, and the nation.” Defending a nuclear weapons lab engineer against the Department of Energy, Bothwell added, “It is the proper role of the court to overturn decisions of the Executive Branch that otherwise obscure the truth, chill the workforce, and dis-serve the law.”
The San Francisco attorney represents Anthony Rivera, who was fired by Lawrence Livermore National Security LLC in 2013 after he disclosed “serious safety violations” in the lab’s High Explosives Test Facility and the Mechanical Engineering Division. A Department of Energy administrative judge in 2017 decided that the lab intentionally retaliated against Rivera for having blown the whistle on safety concerns. But the DOE judge also decided that the lab would have fired Rivera anyway because he told coworkers about being harassed by management following his safety complaints.
Bothwell, in a motion for summary judgment filed with the federal court in Oakland, said the Constitution protects a Livermore lab employee’s right to tell coworkers how he was treated by management. The First Amendment applies, he said, because the nuclear weapons lab performs “government functions” and is managed by a joint venture in which the University of California is the “founding partner.” Thus Rivera’s employer was a “state actor.”
Bothwell was the public affairs director of the Livermore lab in the 1980s when he stopped the Physics Department from firing Hugh DeWitt, a physicist who often spoke publicly against U.S. nuclear weapons policy. Bothwell later resigned from the lab. As a lawyer for more than 20 years he has represented Livermore scientists, engineers, and security officers who have blown the whistle on unsafe practices.