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Employee gets $1M from jury

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Court > Lab plans to challenge verdict

By The Staff

Los Alamos National Laboratory’s operator said it will challenge a jury’s award of $1 million to a lab employee whose lawsuit said an angry supervisor twice made comments about using a gun to resolve on-the-job disputes.

A jury made the award to Marlayne Mahar earlier this week following a 3 1/2-day trial in District Court in Santa Fe, the Albuquerque Journal reported this morning.

Mahar’s lawsuit against Los Alamos National Security LLC, the partnership that runs the lab, alleged breach of the lab’s workplace violence policy, breach of contract and acting in bad faith.

The lab disputed the allegations and said it will challenge the trial’s results.

The newspaper also reported that Mahar’s lawyer, Tim Butler of Santa Fe, said the jurors listened to evidence from both sides, made the award in Mahar’s favor and that he and Mahar “respect their decision.”

The suit said a newly hired supervisor in the plutonium processing facility told Mahar in 2009 that a boss could shoot a worker who says the wrong thing. Another female employee days later reported that the same supervisor got angry with her and told her he was going to “bring in a gun and take care of it himself,” according to the suit.

The second employee called police, saying she felt threatened, and the lab’s tactical-response team responded, the document states. The lab denied that happened.

The suit said the supervisor, Randy Fraser, told Mahar that he was joking when he made the comment to her and that he denied making the comment that the other worker reported.

The lab’s human resources unit closed an investigation of the allegations about Fraser, saying his alleged statements couldn’t be corroborated.

Fraser and another lab official were originally named as defendants in the suit, but both were dismissed from the case before the trial.

Fraser still works at the lab. Mahar now works in another area, but her suit said she is performing clerical work “far below her previous job scope.”