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EEOC Criticizes Lockheed Martin for Workplace Shootings in Mississippi

Benjamin Bradley, director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's office in Jackson, Miss., sent a letter to Lockheed Martin Corp. indicating the company was responsible for allowing a racially hostile environment to fester at a facility where a white employee shot 14 coworkers, most of them black.

Employee Doug Williams killed five coworkers and then killed himself at the Lockheed Martin aircraft-parts plant in Meridian, Miss., on July 8, 2003.

The letter, which was obtained by the Washington Post from an attorney for the victims' families, indicated that shooter Doug Williams made "hostile, threatening and demeaning comments" and threatened to kill black coworkers. His actions created a racially hostile work environment, said investigators, who charged that Lockheed Martin did not do enough to diffuse the situation.

EEOC investigators said Lockheed Martin's response to "this violent and fatal act of hostility toward African American employees has been inadequate in reducing the level of hostility in the workplace. We find that this hostile environment exists as to all African American employees employed at the Meridian, Miss., location."

Lockheed Martin was cleared of responsibility in the shootings by Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie and has not been cited by OSHA for any workplace safety and health violations in the past five years. The company released a statement calling the shootings "a senseless tragedy," and said it was not responsible for the shootings. The victims' families disagree, however, and have filed suit against the company.

For further information about the incident, read "Workplace Shooting Leaves Six Dead in Mississippi."

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