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Automaker hit with $16.8 million judgment in discrimination case

There are Ford dealerships all over the Milwaukee area. As one of the Big Three, the automaker has produced some of America's iconic vehicles, including the Mustang, Thunderbird, Shelby Cobra, Lincoln Continental and of course, the Model T.

The auto giant was recently rocked by a federal jury’s decision to award a former Ford engineer $16.8 million because the company and the ex-employee’s supervisors created a hostile work environment. At the end of an 11-day trial, the jury found that the man had been subjected to discrimination and retaliation because of his Arab background and accent.

The court also determined that the man suffered retaliation and was fired after he reported his supervisors’ constant berating and criticisms.

The engineer was born in Lebanon and was hired by Ford in 1999.

The jury’s decision included $15 million in punitive damages, as well as $1.7 million in retirement and pension losses and $100,000 for emotional distress.

A spokesperson for the automotive company said, “We don’t believe that the facts in this case support the verdict." Although the carmaker did not state that it will appeal, it did say it will seek to have the verdict “corrected.”

The engineer told the court that the discrimination began in 2012, when he got a new supervisor who subjected him to "regular and frequent unwarranted criticism and hostility" about his English and accent. He was also assigned "unrealistic work goals” that all but ensured that he would fail to achieve them and eventually be fired.

While the size of the award in this case is unusual, the jury’s desire to punish unlawful behavior is not. Those who have suffered discrimination and retaliation on the basis of national origin, religion or ethnicity can speak to an employment law attorney about their legal options.

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