photo 1 (4)A non-adversarial approach focused on solutions.

Any employee of a participating company can initiate the process by contacting the Hanford Concerns Council. Discretion is a foremost priority during the initial assessment, intake of information, and the resolution processes. All members are subject to the confidentiality terms outlined in the Council Charter.

To ensure this, the Council, the company, and the employee sign a Memorandum of Understanding, each formally pledging their cooperation and commitment to the process, at which time the Council’s commitment to confidentiality and discretion are also thoroughly explained. The MOU does not bind an employee who may later wish to withdraw the complaint, or reject the Council’s recommendation in the case. The process is voluntary for the employee and there is no requirement to give up permanently the right to use other means to handle the concern. However, the MOU stipulates that other processes are put on hold while the Council seeks resolution.

Employees who choose to preserve other legal rights while using the Council procedures might consult an attorney about the best way to do that. In such instances, a “protective filing” that preserves rights for later action, but which does not trigger the other process, will normally not interfere with the Council’s proceeding. For the Council process itself, employees may have a lawyer assist or advise them, but it is not necessary and is rarely done. It is not a judicial proceeding where a lawyer is needed to navigate the course, to protect a client’s rights or to explain what is happening. In fact, it is a very simple and straightforward process. The decision to use an attorney at any step in the Council process is an individual choice and is at the employee’s own cost.

The Council is a separate nonprofit corporation, whose board is made up of Hanford Challenge, each participating company, and chaired by a professor from the University of Washington. The members of the Council are appointed by the Chairperson, based on nominations. The members of the Council are appointed by the Chairperson, based on nominations for the employee advocacy seats and the company seats from Hanford Challenge and participating companies respectively.  The Chairperson makes appointments to the neutral seats, often seeking suggestions from interested parties.