Vaccine Sackings Spark Lawsuit, Safety Concerns at Nuclear Facility

By Steven Kovac
Steven Kovac
Steven Kovac
Reporter
Steven Kovac is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Michigan. He is a former small businessman, local elected official, and conservative political activist. He is an ordained minister of the Gospel. Steven and his wife of 32 years have two grown daughters. He can be reached at steven.kovac@epochtimes.us
October 26, 2021 Updated: October 26, 2021

A group of 80 workers filed suit against their South Carolina nuclear-waste management company on Oct. 12 over firings related to the facility’s vaccine mandate.

The plaintiffs are asking the local court for a declaratory judgment, a temporary restraining order, and a permanent injunction to block the vaccine mandate imposed by Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS).

The plaintiffs are among an estimated 220 staff members who remain unvaccinated. SRNS employs 5,500 people. More than 96 percent of the workforce has been vaccinated against the CCP virus as of Oct. 21, a company spokeswoman told The Epoch Times.

“It smacks of fascism when corporate America is doing the bidding of the government in forcing a vaccine mandate on employees by proxy,” retired Marine Col. Jim Harmon, a former employee, said.

Harmon, a decorated veteran of three-and-a-half deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, lost his security department job on Oct. 14 for refusing to receive a vaccine. He said to do so would violate the tenets of his religion.

Religious Exemptions Denied

In an Oct. 12 memo to employees, SRNS President Stuart MacVean announced that the company had “processed” a large number of requests for religious exemptions and “after careful consideration denied all requests for accommodation.”

MacVean called accommodations, such as weekly testing, “an undue burden on our company,” citing the large number of requests for religious exemptions as a factor in the action.

“They didn’t even give us the option to get tested at the local drugstore at our own expense,” Harmon said. “This really bothers me, especially after the company said it would consider medical and religious requests for exemptions on an individual basis.

Harmon said his request for religious exemption was genuine, and that he wasn’t trying to use it to get out of getting the vaccine. He said he provided documentation from his church supporting his application.

“Actions taken by SRNS to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for all employees were done solely to protect the health and safety of the workforce,” SRNS spokeswoman Barbara Smoak told The Epoch Times. “It is SRNS’s sincere desire that those who are unvaccinated will decide to receive the vaccine by the Nov. 30 deadline for full vaccination and remain employed by SRNS.”

Donald Brown, the attorney for the terminated employees, argued that such a decision was more difficult than SRNS is making it out to be.

“That decision is not like choosing between an Egg McMuffin and a cheeseburger. It’s a decision of great consequence,” he said.

“This case is about state law and freedom. It’s about the unauthorized practice of medicine by a medically unqualified employer who has no knowledge of the medical condition, or history of individual employees, and yet is forcing a potentially harmful medication on them as a condition of employment.”

Protect Health and Safety

Harmon believes that SRNS lost at least a couple of hundred employees due to the vaccine mandate.

He told The Epoch Times he believes the security, safety, and operations at the nuclear processing, refining, and storage facility will suffer as a result.

“These workers are not common day laborers. They include nuclear engineers, scientists, tech security, and program managers. Some with 30 years experience. People with their qualifications are not easily replaced.

“But it’s a double problem. Even if management finds equally qualified replacements, they must have, or get, security clearances. That can take a year.”

According to Harmon, many of his coworkers are “scared to say anything.”

SRNS did not respond to a question about the potential impact of staff reductions on the safety and security of the firm’s operations.

The employees’ suit also contends that individual choice in medical matters, even in times of emergency, and specifically including vaccinations, is a well-established principle in South Carolina law.

A female SRNS employee stated in an affidavit, notarized on Oct. 19, that she was given no such choice.

“I was forced to obtain the vaccine, or be terminated by the company.

“The mandate left me no choice but to do so out of fear of losing my job. I reluctantly obtained the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.”

Following her single-shot vaccination, the woman said she experienced a severe reaction, including skin pain, drop in blood pressure, dizziness and weakness.

“It was a very scary experience that I never would have gone through had there not been a vaccine mandate,” she said.

Harmon said the SRNS out-processing procedures on Oct. 14 were “heavy-handed and utterly insulting”, with between 20 and 30 heavily armed members of the company’s protective force stationed both in and around the Human Resources room, as if they were “anticipating a riot.”

“Some had M-4 service rifles. The only thing missing from being fully outfitted to go to war was a helmet. Normally, in places like an HR area, they would be wearing their polo-shirts and sidearms.”

Treated Like a Spy

Harmon said all the personal items he was carrying, but his car keys, were taken from him, including his cell phone.

He was surprised that no comfort features, like chairs, were provided to allow employees to sit while doing the paperwork.

“I think the whole thing was a deliberate show of force designed to intimidate and corral employees into submission,” Harmon said. “One day I was a valued and trusted employee with a top security clearance. The next day I was treated like a spy, or saboteur, or terrorist. All because I won’t take the shot”

Smoak said SRNS security personnel were wearing their everyday uniforms, which are appropriate for all site entrances.

“Measures that were put in place were to assist with directing the employees to the location and to ensure their safety.”

Brown said he was hoping for a “speedy resolution,” but said attorneys for SRNS filed for a notice of removal in order to bump the case up to the Federal District Court of South Carolina at Columbia.

Steven Kovac
Reporter
Steven Kovac is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Michigan. He is a former small businessman, local elected official, and conservative political activist. He is an ordained minister of the Gospel. Steven and his wife of 32 years have two grown daughters. He can be reached at steven.kovac@epochtimes.us