Charles Daniels, 45, an African-American electrician and Air Force veteran, was hired by military contractor Lockheed Martin in September 1999 to work as an avionics electrician.
Suit nets record $2.5M settlement
Military contractor Lockheed Martin agrees to pay in discrimination lawsuit
STORY SUMMARY »
Military contractor Lockheed Martin has agreed to pay a $2.5 million settlement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for race discrimination and retaliation against one of its former employees.
EEOC says it is the largest amount it has ever obtained for a single person in a race discrimination case.
Lockheed Martin denies any wrongdoing in agreeing to the settlement, which also calls for the company to "terminate and permanently bar the employment of" five employees in the case. Company spokesman Joe Stout said it chose to settle to let the parties move on.
The plaintiff, 45-year-old Charles Daniels, is an African-American electrician who worked for Lockheed Martin between 1999 and 2001.
The federal agency alleged Daniels was subjected to racial epithets, slurs and threats from team workers at various bases in Florida, Washington state and Hawaii, including the air station in Kaneohe.
The EEOC suit, filed in August 2005, alleges Daniels' co-workers made repeated use of the N-word as well as derogatory statements and references to lynching.
After Daniels filed complaints with the company, the EEOC alleged, the harassment intensified.
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Lockheed Martin, the world's largest military contractor, has agreed to a $2.5 million settlement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for a race discrimination and retaliation lawsuit.
It is the largest amount ever obtained by the EEOC for a single person in a race discrimination case, the agency said. In addition to the payment, Lockheed Martin agreed to terminate the harassers and bar them from any future employment with the Bethesda, Md.-based corporation.
The suit, filed in August 2005, alleged that Charles Daniels, 45, an African-American electrician and Air Force veteran, was subjected to racial harassment and threats of lynching while working on military aircraft.
Lockheed Martin hired Daniels to work as an avionics electrician in September 1999.
Over the next two years, during a string of assignments that would take him from Jacksonville, Fla., to Whidbey Island, Wash., and Kaneohe, Daniels was subjected repeatedly to racial slurs, including the N-word and harassment by four co-workers and a supervisor, the EEOC said.
But after filing complaints with the company, the agency said he received threats that included innuendo about how a person could disappear in remote Whidbey Island with the body never being found.
Other comments, according to the EEOC, included, "If you need somebody to tie the knot, I'll tie the knot for you."
Lockheed Martin's investigator called the comments "friendly banter" and chalked it up to "guys being guys," according to EEOC. After the company's investigation, the harassment worsened, the agency said.
Eventually, Daniels was laid off from his position after disclosing - while requesting that he not be transferred to Maine to work with the same team - that he had filed an EEOC complaint.
The suit alleges that the human resources person, upon learning of Daniels' EEOC complaint, said, "We're Lockheed Martin. We never lose."
Lockheed Martin admits no wrongdoing, although the settlement also calls for the company to "terminate and permanently bar the employment of" five employees in the case: Robert McGee, David Ader, Roy Coolidge, James Gutierrez and James Glenn.
"We chose to settle the allegations relating to matters that happened six to seven years ago to enable the parties to move on," said Joe Stout, spokesman for Lockheed Martin. "We thought it was in the best interest of Mr. Daniels and everyone involved to move on."
Lockheed Martin says at no time was the operating unit aware of, nor did it ignore, any unlawful conduct. The conduct in question involved a small number of first-line employees in a small, single operating unit of the company, he said.
"We don't tolerate discrimination in the workplace," Stout said. "At the time these matters allegedly occurred, we investigated facts brought to our attention at that time and took actions we felt were appropriate at the time."
Stout added, "We feel, had the matter gone to trial and all the facts that had occurred been reviewed, it would have come out, based on the facts we had available then, we took the appropriate action."
He also said that at no time was there testimony of lynching or nooses in the case. The alleged discrimination was by co-workers and a "crew leader" - not a supervisor at the management level.
"We are very proud of our record as a corporation of high ethical standing, a corporation that honors and practices diversity and inclusion," Stout said. "We recognize the benefits that diversity brings to the workplace."
Daniels, who now works for another company, said he tried to deal with the slurs by distancing himself but that it also frustrated him that there were no responses to his complaints.
"I was born in the '60s," said Daniels, who also quoted Martin Luther King Jr. in an issued statement. "I grew up in an era where I was told things would get better. I still believe there's a long way to go in this company."
The monetary award amounts to one one-thousandth of Lockheed Martin's $2.5 billion 2006 profit. The company had nearly $40 billion in 2006 sales.
But Daniels says he feels justice has been served, and could be an example for hard-working Americans of every race and gender.
EEOC attorneys on the case praised Daniels for his courage, calling him someone with a quiet determination and conviction.
EEOC filed the suit on behalf of Daniels in 2005, seeking back pay plus compensatory and punitive damages. Daniels intervened, hiring Honolulu attorney Carl M. Varady to pursue other claims under Hawaii law in U.S. District Court.
Varady said, "Any corporate harassment policy is just a piece of paper unless the people implementing it understand it, understand why it's important and, especially, how important confidentiality is to any investigation."
Lockheed Martin will have to revise its EEO and harassment policies, complaint procedures and provide additional training for its employees.
Daniels' situation was among the most severe racial-harassment cases the EEOC Honolulu office has come across, said Director Tim Riera.
Since 1991 the number of racial-harassment charge filings with EEOC offices nationwide has more than doubled, from 3,075 in that fiscal year to about 7,000 in fiscal 2007.
Time line of events
Charles Daniels is hired by Lockheed Martin Logistics Management as an avionics electrician.
February to March 2000
The harassment begins with a co-worker complaining about how many "n---ers" there were in Jacksonville and how blacks were taking over. Daniels reported that the co-worker said, "We should do to blacks what Hitler did to the Jews."
June to October 2000
Whidbey Island, Wash.
The racial harassment and use of the N-word intensify. When Daniels and a white co-worker report it, both face retaliation and threats of physical violence after their complaints are distributed to their co-workers by Lockheed Martin's human resources investigator.
March to August 2001
Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station, Hawaii
A month after arriving in Honolulu, Daniels is assigned to work with his former team even though he tells his supervisor of the harassment. Again, he experiences racial slurs and threats and reports them, but says no action is taken. He is reassigned to Maine with the same team, now supervised by one of his harassers. On his last day in Hawaii, he files a charge with the Honolulu office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After he tells the company of his EEOC complaint, he is laid off.
Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission