Lockheed Martin Settlement Sends ‘Powerful Message’

By Kathy Gurchiek Jan 4, 2008

A victim of racial harassment and employment discrimination during his employment at Lockheed Martin has won $2.5 million in what the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) calls one of the largest recoveries for an individual case.

The lawsuit against the Fortune 100 corporation and the world’s largest military contractor includes an agreement from the Bethesda, Md.-based company to terminate the four co-workers and the supervisor who harassed former employee and Navy veteran Charles Daniels, and to make significant policy changes to address any future discrimination, the EEOC said during a Jan. 3, 2007, news conference in Hawaii.

Daniels, 45, was subjected to severe racial harassment, including the “N-word,” and to physical threats while he was part of a field service team in Jacksonville, Fla., Whidbey Island, Wash., and Oah’u, Hawaii, while working on military aircraft.

Daniels was the only black worker on the team, which moved to a new site every four to six weeks. The harassment started in September 1999 after Daniels was hired as an avionics electrician.

There was distribution of weekly “newsletters” in the employees’ break room for Ku Klux Klan meetings and racist graffiti in restrooms. The harassment followed Daniels to Jacksonville, Fla., in 2000, then to Whidbey Island later that year, continuing in Hawaii in 2001.

“Before 1965, this type of behavior was legal,” EEOC Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo said of Daniels’ experience. “The civil rights laws we have are so valuable. They provide protection for individuals like Mr. Daniels.”

The settlement, he said, “sends a powerful message that racism cannot and must not be tolerated.”

During the news conference, Daniels said: “I think the individuals were a little upset that I was progressing within the company and doing my job and doing it well. I think their main goal was to chase me out of that job.”

Daniels and a white co-worker reported the racist harassment to HR. After Lockheed Martin’s HR investigator distributed their reports to co-workers, both men were subjected to severe retaliation and threats of violence; the harassers grew from two men to four, according to the EEOC.

Daniels was threatened with lynching, was told how easy it would be for him to be made to disappear on Whidbey Island, and saw co-workers in a vehicle circling the block around his apartment late at night, according to the EEOC, prompting him to move off the island to Seattle.

“They are responsible for what they said. They’re responsible for their actions. They’re responsible for their threats. But Lockheed Martin knew about it,” said Raymond T. Cheung, the EEOC attorney who served as lead lawyer in the case.

Lockheed Martin continued to pair Daniels with the team that consisted of the harassers.

A co-worker who was a witness and kept a journal on Daniels’ behalf was chased out of his job, Daniels and the EEOC said.

Despite its legal obligations, Lockheed failed to discipline the harassers and instead allowed the discrimination to continue unabated even though the company was aware of the unlawful conduct and had an antidiscrimination policy on paper, the EEOC said.

Daniels continued to report the harassment, but “I endured it way too long,” he said.

He was ending a post in Hawaii for another assignment when he was told, over his protests, to join his former team in Maine, which was at that time supervised by one of his harassers. On his last day in Hawaii in 2001 he went to the EEOC Honolulu Office and filed a charge. While en route to Maine, he met with Lockheed’s HR person who was familiar with his case.

According to the EEOC, Daniels begged the HR person not to send him to Maine but was told he would be terminated if he did not go. When he made it known he had filed an EEOC complaint, the HR person became angry, according to the EEOC.

“You did what? I could have given you a job. We have 130,000 employees. I could create a job if I wanted to. You see that file cabinet behind you? It’s filled with thousands of complaints just like yours. We’re Lockheed Martin. We never lose. You can take your chances with the EEOC,” he said he was told by HR before being terminated.

The suit, filed in August 2005, was resolved with a consent decree that includes the $2.5 million payment and a requirement for Lockheed Martin to provide annual antidiscrimination training to all its employees, including management.

In addition, Lockheed Martin is to report annually to the EEOC on whether any new claims of discrimination have been made by employees, and the steps taken to remedy the situations.

In addition to firing the harassers, Lockheed Martin is required to bar their employment permanently.

In a statement appearing in Pacific Business News, Lockheed Martin said the government's characterization of the case was “false” and that it settled “to enable all parties to move on.” The company said it has “strong policies” against harassment and discrimination and that it took “appropriate remedial action” when it became aware of the allegations in the Daniels case.

“The EEOC's characterization of the facts is false,” Lockheed Martin is quoted as saying, “and we regret that the EEOC, for whatever reason, has chosen to distort the factual record in this matter. We chose to settle the allegations from six and seven years ago to enable all parties to move on.

“The conduct in question involved a small number of first-line employees in a small, single operating unit of the company. When management became aware of the allegations, it conducted investigations and took the appropriate remedial actions based on the facts presented at that time. At no time was the operating unit aware of or did it ignore any unlawful conduct. All individuals involved in this matter have either left the company or are being terminated. Additionally, as a result of this settlement, we've barred the individuals allegedly involved in this matter from future work with the company."

The two-year-old case was set to go to trial in federal court in Honolulu in February, the Pacific Business News reported.

Racial harassment charge filings with EEOC offices nationwide have more than doubled since the early 1990s from 3,075 in fiscal 1991 to about 7,000 in fiscal 2007, based on preliminary year-end data.

Race is the most frequently alleged basis of discrimination in charges brought to the EEOC, accounting for about 36 percent of the agency’s private-sector caseload.

EEOC Chair Naomi C. Earp on Feb. 28, 2007, launched the Commission’s E-RACE Initiative (Eradicating Racism and Colorism from Employment). It is a national outreach, education and enforcement campaign focusing on new and emerging race and color issues in the 21st century workplace.

More information can be found at www.eeoc.gov/initiatives/e-race/index.html.

Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor for HR News. She can be reached at kgurchiek@shrm.org.


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