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Plant settles lawsuit with workers denied respirators

Florida Power Corp. has settled several employment discrimination complaints and lawsuits brought by two former workers at its nuclear power plant in Crystal River, ending three years of litigation. The terms of the settlement were not made public. Florida Power spokesman Rick Janka confirmed the settlement on Wednesday but would not comment further. He said the company would issue a statement in a few days.

The complaints and lawsuits stem from a March 1988 incident in which Florida Power refused to issue respirators that the two workers thought were necessary for work in a radioactive area.

The workers, brothers Larry and Floyd Mitchell Simmons, protested the respirator issue and were laid off shortly after.

They filed a complaint against Fluor Constructors Inc., the subcontractor that employed them at the plant, alleging that they were fired because of their protests.

A federal whistle-blower statute protects nuclear power plant employees who raise safety concerns from retaliation by their employers.

The Simmonses filed a second set of complaints against both Fluor and Florida Power after the two brothers were refused jobs when they tried to return to work at the plant in February and March of 1989.

They also filed slander lawsuits against both Florida Power and utility spokesman Mark Jacobs after Jacobs told reporters that the Simmonses were denied jobs because they were "an unacceptable safety and security risk."

The Simmonses and their attorney, Louis D. Putney of Tampa, could not be reached for comment.