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Former INL manager fired after allegedly ‘inciting others’ against vaccine mandates

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IDAHO FALLS — A local father of five says he was wrongfully terminated from the Idaho National Laboratory after speaking out about the vaccine mandates.

Nicholas Christiansen worked in radiological controls for 15 years, where he most recently was a manager at the Materials and Fuels Complex. When COVID hit last year, Christiansen said he had discussions with his manager about the protocols the INL had in place to fight COVID-19. Those protocols included mask-wearing, testing, social distancing and other policies about what vaccinated and unvaccinated people were allowed to do, Christiansen said.

“Every time I would bring up and say, ‘Hey, this isn’t right,’ ‘It doesn’t make sense’ and ‘It’s not logical,’ I would get told, ‘Well, I’ll run it up the chain,'” Christiansen recalled. “I would never hear anything back.”

Christiansen said he sent an email to INL leaders after a town hall meeting to try and get information and understand why they thought what they were doing at the INL was working and right. He said he was told the INL was trying to keep people safe, but nobody could explain how the policies made people safe.

In September, President Joe Biden mandated that all federal employees be vaccinated in response to a large section of the nation’s population that was refusing to accept vaccination. Thus far, COVID-19 has killed more than 700,000 Americans, including 3,256 people in Idaho.

RELATED | Who will be impacted by federal vaccine mandates in eastern Idaho?

“I was frustrated,” Christiansen said about feeling like he wasn’t being heard. “Then, when Pres. Biden did his executive order press conference, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me and a few of my colleagues, so we decided to write a petition.”

The petition asked the INL to hold off on implementing the vaccine mandate until it could be reviewed for constitutionality and know if it was “necessary to take people’s rights away and force people into something that’s irreversible.” The petition was started on a Thursday and turned in Monday morning with 370 signatures, but the petition got nowhere with management.

INL spokeswoman Sarah Neumann told EastIdahoNews.com that represented (union) employees must be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8, and nonrepresented employees are required to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 19. The INL is not allowing weekly testing if a person doesn’t get vaccinated, which means employees are at risk of losing their job if they don’t get fully vaccinated, according to INL officials.

“They weren’t listening,” Christiansen explained. “One of the things that INL says … is they will listen to employee concerns and take those concerns into consideration and that they care about everybody and different opinions. If you don’t get a satisfactory answer, you should raise that question to the next level until you do get a satisfactory answer, that’s the way they want you to work.”

Christiansen started a second petition — which collected over 800 signatures in 10 days — to give to the U.S. Department of Energy, which he explained is the regulator over the INL. On Sept. 23, he sent an email to Bob Boston, the head of the DOE-Idaho asking to meet with him. Christiansen was told to run his concerns through the INL employee concerns program, but Christiansen said he tried, had gone to the lab manager and was now asking for the regulator to step in and help.

About an hour-and-a-half after emails were exchanged, Christiansen got a phone call saying he was put on administrative leave pending his termination the following day. He was fired on Sept. 24.

“There was no communication between me and management of any kind about what I was doing (or) that what I was doing was wrong,” Christiansen added. “In fact, when I dropped off the first petition, after the meeting, the chief operating officer for the employee safety and health group sat me down and told me how proud she was of me for standing up for what I believe in and for trying to help other people have a voice.”

He was told the reasons why he was fired were for inciting coworkers and fellow employees to break rules, which he denies happened, and for a blog he started where he voiced his thoughts regarding the nation’s political climate — which has since been turned into a discussion forum for topics such as vaccine mandates — as being a conflict of interest to the INL.

Christiansen, who believes other people are too afraid to speak up, said he wasn’t surprised he was fired because “this is typical of what tyrants do.” The letter he sent the INL that he said was read at the review board held for his termination can be found here.

“I’m willing to do what it takes to remain a free man,” he said. “It isn’t about this vaccine. … It’s about whether the government has the right to force you to do that or not because if they do, and we allow this to happen, what’s next? … Could they put trackers in you? Could they put a barcode on you that you have to have to get money and have your social status?”

EastIdahoNews.com asked the INL about Christiansen’s situation and was told the INL does not comment on personnel issues.

While Christiansen is looking for a new career, he plans to continue fighting the mandates. He’s worked with legislators and lawyers to try and get an injunction in place to stop the mandates. He’s also working with a group on a national scale to try and help get a federal injunction in place.

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