University alum Robert McGee is suing the University Board of Regents in Washtenaw County Trial Court today for allegedly being fired when he reports laboratory safety violations.
McGee is suing under the Whistleblower Protection Act — an act that protects employees who report violations of local, state or federal law.
Michael Hartman, assistant professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences, fired McGee as his graduate student research assistant four days after McGee reported Hartman had committed safety violations by dumping chemicals down a laboratory sink, according to a Nov. 6 annarbor.com article.
The article also states Hartman asked McGee to come with him to another professor’s lab to detect radiation, the article reported. The lab contained Cesium 137 — a highly radioactive material — but Hartman claimed he didn’t know if the Cesium was active.
McGee sent an e-mail to the University’s Radiation Safety Service on Feb. 16, 2008 to report his exposure to the radiation. He also informed the University’s Department of Occupational Safety and Environmental Health that he witnessed Hartman disposing chemicals in a sink McGee thought led to a storm drain.
University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham wrote in an e-mail interview that the alleged safety violations were not true.
“Mr. McGee could not have been exposed to radiation as the machine in question was locked and inactive at the time he and Prof. Hartman were in the area,” she wrote.
She added that an Occupational Safety and Environmental Health investigation determined the chemical waste Hartman allegedly dumped in a sink was properly disposed.
Though McGee claims he was fired for reporting safety violations, Cunningham says that is not the case.
Cunningham wrote that the project McGee worked on was completed before the end of his appointment, and the department decided not to reappoint him for another term even before the incident occurred.
“This decision was made long before Mr. McGee raised any concerns,” she wrote.
McGee received full pay and benefits until the end of his term. However, the annarbor.com article states he was denied employment with another professor after he was terminated.
When reached last night, McGee said he wouldn’t comment on the case until later this week.
Hartman could not be reached Sunday evening.