He warned of serious safety issues. Later two employees were seriously hurt and received $millions from Sandia Labs. Managers pushed him out but they got promoted. 

Read for yourself:

Vickers v Sandia Corp, Marcus Craig, Walter Gutierrez, Jay Skolnik, Robert Shirey, Doug Cotter and Scott Holswade 

Case 1:11-cv-00429-WDS-DJS


The Summary:

Michael Vickers was promoted several times over the years and received awards and commendations from his managers. He has a BS in Electrical Engineering, an MS in Systems Engineering, and an MBA. This is common across most of these cases – things were going well until Michael raised a safety concern.
Michael was concerned about safety issues, falsification of records, overtime issues, and wild employee parties in the Rocket subsections of 5400. He raised the concern to his manager, Eric Schinwolf. Eric didn’t listen. Two years later, a wild celebration of a launch in Alaska led to drunk driving on the beach, a serious accident with severe injuries, millions of dollars to the injured, and a promotion to Eric Schwinwolf.**


Unfortunately for Michael, now his managers did “not want Michael around because of what he had reported about 5400.” Once again, appearances are more important than safety. 

Michael might have been able to save his career if he’d learned what many at Sandia do. Shut your mouth about safety issues. But Michael apparently has a conscience and some morals, so a couple of years later he alerted management to a waste, fraud and abuse issue concerning a subcontractor. The contract was terminated, so there must have been something there.

A year later, Michael raised the concern about NEC violations to his manager Marcus Craig. Shocking! Marcus responded by telling Michael that it would be a good idea for him to retire. So Michael talked to his level 2 manager Scott Halswade about retaliation. Of course it got back to Marcus Craig (you know the Sandia culture), and he wasn’t happy at all about it.

Michael and his innocent wife were removed from the Extended Work Week List. First warning to stop bringing up issues! Michael then warned that some workers didn’t have the ESD training required by the funding customer to work on their program. What did Marcus Craig do now? He just cancelled the training requirement. Screw the customer! Sandia knows better!

Next came a request to Michael to approve an engineering change. Whoa wait a minute! How about a committee of engineers to look at that issue??? Anywhooo, Michael didn’t approve it because the change resulted in higher risk of ESD damage. So what did Sandia do? They went right around the expert they appointed and got a contractor with no knowledge or access to program data. He approved it! Sure, who wouldn’t? Want your contract renewed? Sign here.

Marcus Craig again complained to Michael that he wasn’t happy Michael had gone over his head. So Marcus and Scott Holswade step up the retaliation by removing Michael from some of his job responsibilities and publicly humiliating him. Marcus said: “You’re always bringing me problems” and “No one on this Project brings me as many problems as you do.” So Marcus took away some more of his job responsibilities and blocked him from entering a building. Turned out the customer agreed with Michael! No matter, Michael rocked the boat so his career was headed down the drain. No turning that around. Marcus took away more job responsibilities and replaced Michael with a young employee with no experience.

Marcus wasn’t done. He now said Michael was violent and sent him for a fitness for duty evaluation telling him “You are on your own” and “I don’t want to hear from you again.” The medical evaluation did not find Michael was dangerous at all. And here’s how the DOE Security Clearance Division ruled on Michael:

“A security concern no longer exists in this case because there was no violence on the Subject’s part… There are no problems with his judgement, reliability, or ability to follows [sic] the rules and regulations…. Although the subject’s statements are contradictory to documentation from SNL regarding his actions… there is no indication that he has ever been physically violent.”

Michael tried to work things out through the Ombuds program at Sandia. His manager wouldn’t participate. By now, Marcus had moved on and the new manager (Walt Gutierrez), warned what a safety troublemaker Michael was, decided it just wasn’t worth his time to actually sit down and try talking to his employee. Instead he gave him a verbal reprimand for being violent. Remember just two paragraphs ago, that was an unfounded accusation. OK, it seems to have been FABRICATED! Then the new manager puts it in MIchael’s PMF. Very common occurrence at Sandia. Facts mean little. Just gotta get rid of the whiny employees!

So Michael decides to bid on a new job and move on. A job in the Systems Integration Department looks good and fits his background, but the level two manager Mary Gonzales tells MIchael not to bid on the job because she’s looking for younger engineers. 

So Michael files an age discrimination suit. Remember he’d been encouraged to retire. Classic Sandia Treatment. Good employee raises concern, managers aren’t happy and ruin his career.

** Check how things have been going in 5400 since the sad incident of drunk driving on the beach in Alaska. Read about the next 5400 debacle here. Many of the same managers.

I was in 2600 at the time which worked closely with 5400. This incident gave rise to a favorite saying for some time on the floor: “Where the fuck is the missile???” followed by feigning diving under a desk. Fun and good times for Sandia, great cost to the taxpayer.