- A Michigan court has ordered Ford to pay an ex-engineer $16.8 million for discrimination and retaliation, reports the Detroit Free Press. The automaker and two supervisors were found liable of creating a hostile work environment for an employee of Arab descent.
- Faisal G. Khalaf, who was born in Lebanon and had been working for Ford since 1999, claimed his immediate supervisor constantly berated him and criticized him over his English. Khalaf alleged that when he complained about the treatment, Ford fired him. A jury determined that he was subject to a hostile work environment based on discrimination and retaliation. It awarded Khalaf $15 million in punitive damages, $1.7 million for retirement and pension losses and $100,000 for emotional distress.
- The Free Press says Ford disagrees with the verdict and is considering its options. The company said it is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace.
This isn't Ford's first brush with such claims. Just last year, it entered into a $10 million settlement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to resolve racial discrimination and sexual harassment allegations.
And regardless of the outcome of this case, the allegations have important lessons for employers: It's important to ensure that employees who raise discrimination claims don't face retaliation for those concerns — even if an employer ultimately decides they don't have merit. In fact, employers can reduce their risk of claims by creating a culture that encourages workers to come forward with feedback and complaints of wrongdoing.
To accomplish that, manager training is key. Experts regularly cite front-line managers as a major cause of federal nondiscrimination law violations. But when managers are taught to ask employees how they can help — rather than taking adverse employment actions against them for voicing concerns — they can instead be your first line of defense.