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Lockheed Martin’s corporate headquarters in Bethesda. (Wikimedia Commons)

Ex-Lockheed employee awarded $830K in retaliation lawsuit

A former employee of Lockheed Martin Corp. has been awarded $830,000 in a retaliation lawsuit against the company.

Vincent Balderrama alleged he was fired in 2013 for challenging a poor performance review, his first bad review in nine years at the company. It was his annual review for 2012, a year in which he had been widely praised for closing Lockheed’s only international sale of helicopters for the year.

A Montgomery County Circuit Court jury returned the verdict Friday following a week-long trial and nine hours of deliberations.

“This is a very hardworking man who stood up against a totally incompetent human resources department of Lockheed Martin,” said Adam Carter, a principal at The Employment Law Group P.C. in Washington, D.C., and Balderrama’s lawyer.

Carolyn Nelson, a spokesman for Bethesda-based Lockheed, said the company will appeal the verdict.

“At Lockheed Martin, ethics and integrity have always been, and continue to be, core principles and we do not tolerate retaliation in any form,” she said.

A discrimination claim against Lockheed was thrown out prior to trial.

Balderrama, a Mexican-American and U.S. Naval Academy graduate, was hired by Lockheed in 2004 as a business development manager based in upstate New York, according to the lawsuit. He began focusing on helicopter sales to foreign countries in 2007 and was relocated to the Washington area in 2010 to work with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, two of his primary clients, according to the lawsuit. As he began to close on a deal with Denmark’s Navy, his new boss, Doug Laurendeau, “quickly began to apply an unwarranted level of scrutiny and criticism towards Balderrama,” according to the lawsuit.

Despite Laurendeau allegedly making threats and hostile statements to Balderrama about the Denmark deal, Balderrama was able to close the deal, which was noted in Lockheed’s annual report for 2012, the lawsuit states. Balderrama’s work was praised in reports on the deal by Lockheed, the U.S. Navy and the Danish navy, the lawsuit states.

But Laurendeau “influenced” Lockheed management to revise its internal report to be more critical of Balderrama while not criticizing a non-Hispanic colleague who did not close a similar deal with South Korea, according to the complaint. Laurendeau later reassigned part of Balderrama’s portfolio to the non-Hispanic colleague and issued Balderrama an “unfairly negative performance review” for 2012 that was highly critical of the Denmark deal, according to the complaint.

Balderrama submitted to human resources officials in March 2013 a 16-page rebuttal to Laurendeau’s evaluation but the appeal was dismissed in July 2013 without an investigation, the complaint states. Around that same time, Lockheed announced it would be laying off hundreds of employees in a cost-cutting measure, which the lawsuit alleges Laurendeau used as pretext to fire Balderrama.

Balderrama was one of 600 employees laid off in November 2013, according to the lawsuit. Carter, Balderrama’s lawyer, said Lockheed claimed at trial the layoffs were all done by computer. But Carter created for trial a “stark timeline of retaliation,” including an email asking for underperforming employees to let go that included Balderrama’s name.

“It didn’t pass the smell test,” Carter said.

Balderrama now works for the Naval Academy as a fundraiser, Carter added.

The jury award does not include attorneys’ fees, which Balderrama can recover separately, he said.

Judge Ronald B. Rubin presided over the trial.

Vincent Balderrama v. Lockheed Martin Corp.

Court: Montgomery County Circuit Court

Case No.: 390843V

Judge: Ronald B. Rubin

Outcome: Verdict for $ 1,785,989.00 — $10,989 for incurred medical bills and funeral expenses and $1,775,000 in non-economic damages.

Dates: Incident: Late 2010 to November 2013

Suit filed: May 23, 2014

Verdict: March 13, 2015

Plaintiff’s Attorney: Adam Carter of The Employment Law Group in Washington, D.C.

Defendant’s Attorneys: Tamika R. Nordstrom and Brittni A. Pitts of Littler Mendelson P.C. in Atlanta and Steven E. Kaplan in Washington, D.C.

Count: Retaliation