Doug Williams, who killed five co-workers and them himself last week at the Lockheed Martin plant in Meridian, Miss., allegedly threatened co-workers, made racist taunts, and brimmed with rage, Newsweek reports. What finally lit his fuse may have beens an ethics and sensitivity training course that he was required to take.
The Meridian tragedy raises troubling questions for any company with a disturbed and angry employee in its ranks. Could Lockheed have done more? Can the victims’ families hold the company liable? Newsweek says most legal experts agree that a lawsuit would face high hurdles. State workers’ comp laws hold employers mostly immune from suits stemming from a worker’s injury or death. An exception would be made if Lockheed, in its handling of Williams, was found to have intentionally endangered the victims. One employment attorney D. Michael Reilly, said Lockheed “seemed to follow the book.” Another employment lawyer, Dave Wilson asks, “Would I rather defend a case of wrongful termination [or wrongful death]? I’d rather be the company that fired the guy who was threatening people.”