Worker Wins $1 Million for Boss’ Gun Threats
An employee at the Los Alamos National Laboratory won a $1 million jury verdict because of two comments her supervisor made about using a gun at work.
Marlayne Mahar, who worked at the plutonium processing facility, sued the lab after her new supervisor, Randy Fraser, in 2009 told her that a boss could shoot a worker who says the wrong thing.
“It’s a good thing guns are not allowed at work,” Fraser allegedly said to Mahar. “You know that story about the employee stands up and says the wrong thing and his boss takes out a gun and shoots him!”
According to Mahar’s lawsuit, brought for violating the lab’s workplace violence policy, breach of contract and acting in bad faith, the same supervisor made another gun comment to a co-worker.
Only a few days after Mahar’s incident, another employee reported that Fraser “went ballistic” at her over a work plan and said he was going to “bring in a gun and take care of it himself.” That employee got so spooked that she called the police saying she felt threatened, and the lab’s own SWAT team responded.
At trial, Mahar’s attorney, Tim Butler, argued that the threatening comments began after Mahar, who was a deputy group leader, complained about unaccounted for nuclear inventory at the plutonium processing center. Butler contended her complaints “brought a lot of attention to the Lab as well as the U.S. Department of Energy,” which investigated.
After the investigation, Mahar was demoted and Fraser replaced the group leader. According to Mahar, the abuse started immediately.
Fraser said he was only joking when he made the comment to Mahar, and he denied that the second incident happened at all.
An investigation by the lab concluded that the allegations couldn’t be corroborated and his case was closed.
Mahar sought treatment from a psychologist and took two months of medical leave. She was given the option of working for Fraser again or taking another job. She chose to be relocated to another area even though the work was a demotion to a clerical position far below her previous job.
Fraser still works for the lab.