Oak Ridge National Laboratory wins prestigious award

ORNL won the Employer Support Freedom Award on Monday.
Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 10:25 PM EDT
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ALCOA, Tenn. (WVLT) - The Oak Ridge National Laboratory is one of 15 recipients of an award for its support of service members.

A small crowd was on hand at McGhee Tyson Airbase on Monday to see Oak Ridge National Laboratory take home the Employer Support Freedom Award. It’s given out by the U.S. Department of Defense, and it is the highest recognition given by the U.S. government to employers for supporting its military employees.

“It’s a proud moment for all of us at Oak Ridge National Laboratory,” said Dr. Thomas Zacharia, the director at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Zacharia said about 6,000 employees work at the lab, and about 600 of them are active-duty military or veterans. He said his military employees have the flexibility to serve the nation, even on long-term assignments, and the lab will make up the difference in pay.

“It’s really important to us that their family is supported as well,” said Zacharia.

Several state lawmakers and representatives were at the ceremony, including Governor Bill Lee, who said the lab has become a benchmark for how employers should treat its service members.

“We know that we need to continue to recruit and retain,” said Gov. Lee. “Part of that retention lies in the environment in which they serve. And part of that environment is their employers’ support of them.”

ORNL is one of 15 recipients of the Employer Support Freedom Award this year, out of more than 2,700 submissions. Zacharia said he understands the necessity to support his military staff, especially given the lab’s history dating back to World War II.

“It is an organization that exists to serve the nation,” he said. “So, the more that we can have of people who have the passion to serve the nation so that we can enjoy the freedoms that we enjoy, we are better for it.”

An organization that exists to serve the nation, is now honored by the nation.