Fired nuclear-plant worker wins whistle-blower lawsuit

Posted: June 25, 2013

A security manager's plan to tell a federal regulatory agency about his safety concerns at two South Jersey nuclear plants led to his firing, a Camden jury decided Friday.

Employed by Wackenhut Corp., now G4S Secure Solutions, Robert Scull of Pittsgrove had been a security manager at the Salem and Hope Creek nuclear plants when, at age 49, he was fired in October 2009.

"Nuclear safety is more important than any other kind of safety," said Scull's lawyer, Matthew S. Wolf of Cherry Hill. "It's important that people feel free to come forward with safety concerns."

The jury in U.S. District Judge Renee Marie Bumb's Camden courtroom awarded Scull $400,000 in compensatory damages under New Jersey's whistle-blower law, the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, Wolf said.

The suit had been filed in Salem County, but was moved to federal court.

Scull, who once earned more than $100,000 a year, plus benefits, for supervising a shift team of 50 guards, now works in security at an area Walmart and brings home much less, Wolf said.

"He can barely afford groceries now," Wolf said.

The lawyer representing G4S, John K. Bennett of Jackson Lewis in Morristown, did not return several calls for comment. G4S is a British company that purchased Florida-based Wackenhut.

According to court documents, Scull had become concerned that he had too few assistants to help him supervise his shift. The other teams, Wolf said, had four assistants, but Scull's had three.

At a meeting in September 2009, he told his supervisors that he was willing to go to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission with his safety concerns if they were not addressed.

A few days later, he was suspended, and a month later, he was out of work. PSEG Nuclear, which owns the plants in Lower Alloways Creek Township, was not a party in the suit because Scull worked for the security company.

Court documents indicate that Scull was reprimanded for his handling of an incident that took place a few days before the September 2009 meeting. Scull had been in charge of an overnight shift when a couple were stopped as they drove toward the reactor in the middle of the night. They had been hoping to soothe a crying baby and Scull agreed that the parents should be sent on their way.

Initially, there were no repercussions from that incident, but after the meeting an investigation began. In a report on the incident that also addressed Scull's management style, investigators complained that Scull was grumpy when the Phillies lost.

Wolf said that he would petition for lawyers' fees and that Scull could seek to return to his job.


Contact Jane Von Bergen at jvonbergen@phillynews.com, @JaneVonBergen on Twitter, or at 215-854-2769. Read her workplace blog at www.inquirer.com/jobbing

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