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EDO Corp Sued For Racial Discrimination

X | 09.10.2006 23:21 | Anti-militarism | Anti-racism | Social Struggles | South Coast | World

More legal woes for arms company EDO Corporation.

The Washington Post reported Monday that EDO face a US Federal Court law suit after accusations of racism against an African-American owned company.

Former Partners Tied Up In Court
Contractor Alleges Racial Bias

By Griff Witte
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 9, 2006; Page D01

Two Washington area government contractors that were once partners on work in Iraq and Afghanistan are now tussling in federal court over allegations of racial discrimination, with one firm claiming the other has nearly driven it out of business.

Worldwide Network Services LLC filed suit in D.C. federal court last week, alleging that its workers were subject to racial epithets, banned from meetings and in some cases forced to leave Iraq as part of a deliberate effort by security firm DynCorp International to force the African American-owned company off of a pair of large State Department contracts. District-based WWNS had been a subcontractor to DynCorp, and the lawsuit claims that DynCorp used WWNS's status as a small, minority-owned firm to help win the deals before the relationship soured.

The suit names as defendants both Falls Church-based DynCorp and EDO Corp., a New York-based firm that was also a DynCorp subcontractor.

"DynCorp's actions, clearly designed to force WWNS out of the Iraq and Afghanistan projects, were motivated by racial animus toward WWNS and its African American founders and owners," the suit contends. "Piling on DynCorp's racially discriminatory actions, DynCorp and EDO have conspired to defame WWNS, interfere with WWNS's contracts with its employees, and interfere with WWNS's prospective business relationships."

DynCorp spokesman Gregory Lagana disputed the suit's claims, saying that DynCorp chose not to renew WWNS's contracts because the firm was not getting its work done. "The charge of racial discrimination is outrageous. The issue with WWNS all along was performance," he said. "We will fight this all the way."

An EDO spokeswoman declined to comment because the company had not been served with the suit as of late Friday afternoon.

Lagana said that DynCorp, which had $2 billion in revenue last year, had been getting complaints from the State Department about poor performance by WWNS.

In the suit, WWNS defends its work, and points to e-mails from DynCorp employees and U.S. officials that praised the accomplishments of the communications firm.

It is not unusual for relationships between prime contractors and their subcontractors to turn bitter. But the suit against DynCorp casts light on an unusually acrimonious end to what WWNS said had been a harmonious partnership as recently as two years ago.

Founded in 1993, WWNS lately had been receiving more than 95 percent of its business from DynCorp subcontracts, amounting to approximately $30 million a year, according to WWNS senior vice president Reginald Bailey Sr.

Much of the work stemmed from State Department deals to train police officers and provide protection for dignitaries in Iraq and Afghanistan. DynCorp picked WWNS to provide information technology support for those deals, but the suit claims DynCorp soon decided it wanted to get rid of WWNS in favor of EDO.

One DynCorp official, according to the suit, told WWNS employees that they had been hired only because they were black. Another DynCorp manager used a well-known racial epithet in reference to a WWNS manager, the lawsuit says.

The suit claims that WWNS employees were banned from meetings and denied their identity cards, so they could not do their jobs. One WWNS employee was ordered out of Iraq without explanation, and another had to leave because of "his refusal to give [DynCorp] WWNS's proprietary employment information."

Since the relationship between the companies dissolved, the suit contends that DynCorp spread false information that WWNS was going bankrupt, and hired away many of WWNS's workers.

Bailey said that WWNS, which had nearly 100 employees in Iraq and Afghanistan at its peak, is now completely out of both countries and is fighting for its life with a skeleton staff. "Our business has been drained," he said. "DynCorp has essentially taken away our employees. And they were our company."

Asked how his business will survive, founder and president Walter L. Gray Jr. replied, "With a lot of prayer."