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Ford Employee Wins 16 Million Plus in Lawsuit

Following an 11-day trial in Michigan, a jury has awarded former Ford employee Faisal Khalaf $16.8 million. Mr. Khalaf had sued the car manufacturer, alleging that he was subjected to a hostile work environment based on his national origin. Mr. Khalaf is from Lebanon and has an accent. He also has a Ph.D. and worked for Ford for more than 15 years.

Two executives at Ford were accused of harassing him. Specifically, the executives would berate Mr. Khalaf about his English-speaking skills. The harassment began in 2012 when Mr. Khalaf came under the supervision of Bennie Fowler. Prior to the change in supervisors, Mr. Khalaf had received a “top achiever” performance rating. Once Mr. Fowler took over, the work environment dramatically changed. The supervisors subjected him to repeated criticism, yelled at him, and were increasingly hostile about his English skills. The work environment was ultimately too much for Mr. Khalaf, who went out on medical leave and was later fired.

The jury awarded Mr. Khalaf $15 million in punitive damages, $1.7 million in retirement and pension losses, and $100,000 for emotional distress. The punitive damages are so high because the case was filed under a statute that allowed them to be unlimited in an effort to deter the employer from future discriminatory conduct. Ford has expressed its dissatisfaction with the verdict and has stated that it is looking at the options for getting it “corrected.”