Sanders v. Energy Northwest, 2016 WL 560809 (9th Cir. 2016)

David W. Sanders, a maintenance manager for Energy Northwest (a nuclear power plant), claimed his employment was terminated in retaliation for his objection to the severity level designation of an internal “condition report” that was generated by other employees at the plant. Sanders filed a whistleblower complaint with the Department of Labor (the “DOL”), and when the DOL failed to issue a final decision within one year, Sanders filed a complaint in federal court, alleging he was retaliated against for objecting about a “nuclear safety issue.”  The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Energy Northwest on the ground that Sanders failed to establish a case of retaliation because his activity did not “rise to the level of protected activity” under the Energy Reorganization Act. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed dismissal on the ground that “Sanders’ single expression of a difference of opinion [concerning] one existing internal condition reports lacks a sufficient nexus to a concrete, ongoing safety concern.”  See also Austin v. Los Angeles Unified School Dist., 2016 WL 527175 (Cal. Ct. App. 2016) (denial of alleged whistleblower’s motion for relief after the trial court granted former employer’s unopposed motion for summary judgment is reversed, remanded for consideration on the merits).