A jury has awarded $337,000 to a former Missouri Department of Natural Resources supervisor who claimed he was subject to a hostile work environment after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the invasion of Iraq.
Mohamad Alhalabi, who is of Lebanese descent, told the jury in St. Louis County Circuit Court during a two-week trial that his bosses did nothing to alleviate ethnic slurs, including personal attacks in anonymous anti-Muslim fliers.
Alhalabi was the regional director for the DNR from 2000 to 2005 and oversaw a staff of 70 from his offices in Sunset Hills.
In 2003, the St. Louis Chapter of the Missouri Society of Professional Engineers had selected him the outstanding engineer in government, he said in an interview Friday.
But his supervisors demoted him in 2005. They testified at the trial that he had been a poor manager. He got an “unsatisfactory performance rating” for the period of July 1, 2002, to June 30, 2004, one court document showed.
Alhalabi subsequently left state the DNR. He suffered depression that required psychiatric treatment, said his attorneys, Mary Anne Sedey and Donna Harper. Then he sued.
On two counts, the jury sided with the state. It found against Alhalabi on his discrimination claim and his claim that he was demoted because he had complained about ethnic discrimination.
Richard Vannoy, an assistant attorney general, had argued that the demotion had nothing to do with anything other than Alhalabi’s poor management performance.
In his closing argument, Vannoy said state officials had made a reasonable effort to prevent the workplace abuse of Alhalabi by investigating, but failing to find out — through computer checks and other means — the author or authors of the libelous fliers.
On the hostile work environment count, all 12 jurors agreed, awarding Alhalabi $45,000 in medical expenses and $142,000 in lost wages for actual damages of $187,000. Only nine jurors are needed for a verdict in a civil trial in Missouri. (MORE)