SRS Sign, Saulsberry Case

An entrance to the Savannah River Site, a 310 square-mile nuclear complex south of Aiken.

A federal court has ordered Savannah River Remediation to pay nearly $1.5 million in damages and back pay to a former employee who said she was discriminated and retaliated against.

A jury, following a five-day trial, unanimously found Adrienne Saulsberry, an African-American woman, was not rehired by Savannah River Remediation in 2014 and 2015 because she had previously participated in "protected activity," including a discrimination probe, according to court documents.

The jury also unanimously found that one or more SRR management officials "acted with malice or reckless indifference" in regard to retaliation.

Saulsberry was laid off from SRR in 2013 as part of a sweeping workforce reduction. Saulsberry alleged she was "unfairly targeted" because of her race and known plans to move up the job chain.

"Throughout her employment at SRR, the plaintiff was considered a top performer," Saulsberry's initial complaint reads. "She received good written and oral evaluations. She trained other individuals at the site."

The jury found race discrimination was not a factor in Savannah River Remediation's decision to not hire her in 2014 and 2015.

Saulsberry filed a formal charge of discrimination in September 2014, specifically indicating retaliation. The one-page document was provided to the court.

Savannah River Remediation had roundly denied Saulsberry's claims, according to a 2016 filing.

U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs presided over the trial.

The judgment was entered Sept. 30, more than three years after Saulsberry's lawsuit was initiated.

Savannah River Remediation is the liquid-waste contractor at the Savannah River Site. The team, led by AECOM, has been on the job for about a decade now.

Colin Demarest covers the Savannah River Site, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration and government in general. Follow him on Twitter: @demarest_colin