Bechtel National, Inc. v. United States, No. 18-2055 (Fed. Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
From 1943-1990, the government produced plutonium for nuclear weapons at Washington’s Hanford Site, leaving behind 56 million gallons of nuclear waste in underground tanks. In 2000, Bechtel was awarded a cost-plus-incentive-fee contract by the Department of Energy (DOE) for the design, construction, and operation of a Hanford nuclear waste treatment plant, incorporating provisions of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). During the contract’s performance, two former Bechtel Hanford employees sued Bechtel under 42 U.S.C. 1981, alleging sexual and racial discrimination and retaliation. Bechtel settled these lawsuits and sought $500,000 in reimbursement from DOE for its defense costs. The settlement payments were covered by insurance. DOE provisionally approved Bechtel’s request and reimbursed Bechtel as requested. A contracting officer later disallowed the costs, citing Federal Circuit precedent, “Tecom” and stating that the government would offset the provisional reimbursement from future amounts owed to Bechtel. The Claims Court granted the government summary judgment, concluding that Tecom provided the proper standard. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The Bechtel contract incorporated FAR 31.201-2 and 52.222-26, the same provisions that barred reimbursement in Tecom. Under the Tecom standard, Bechtel’s defense costs related to the discrimination suits are only allowable if Bechtel can show that the former employees “had very little likelihood of success.” Bechtel did not challenge the contracting officer’s determination that the former employees’ claims had more than a very little likelihood of success.