Walter Tamosaitis, a PhD-degreed research-manager terminated by URS Corp. after he raised safety issues at the $12.2-billion nuclear-waste vitrification plant project at the federal Hanford site in Washington state, says his former employer is holding "hostage" his severance package. He also has filed other lawsuits against URS, which says the cut was financial.

Tamosaitis' Oct. 2 cut follows his claims he was systematically demoted in 2010 for whistle-blowing against project managers URS and Bechtel. Tamosaitis told ENR that URS is requiring him to sign a liability waiver before he can receive 26 weeks of severance pay. He terms that "extortion." In a statement, URS confirms federal-sector staff layoffs due to "budgetary constraints." It "encourages" workers to raise safety issues but declines comment on Tamosaitis.

Tamosaitis is appealing in state and U.S. courts earlier case dismissals, "which may be resolved later this year," says his attorney Jack Sheridan. "Firing him now ... is likely an act of desperation by the company." Oral arguments in the U.S. appeals court in San Francisco are set for Nov. 7.