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Former Ford worker awarded $17M in discrimination lawsuit

Attorneys claim the worker's superiors "berated" and ultimately fired him for having a Lebanese accent.

A former Ford engineer has been awarded nearly $17 million in a discrimination lawsuit.

Attorneys representing Faisal G. Khalaf argue that Ford created a hostile work environment, allowing supervisors to treat him unfairly based on his Lebanese background, according to a Detroit Free Press report.

"There was a high-level executive ... that would berate him and criticize him week after week about his English," said attorney Carol Laughbaum.

The lawyers claim Khalaf's supervisor would "literally pound his fist on the table and yell" about his English. He was allegedly terminated after a subordinate came to him with a sexual harassment complaint and was instructed by Khalaf to file a report with human resources.

After an 11-day trial, jurors awarded Khalaf $15 million in punitive damages, $1.7 million in retirement and pension losses, and $100,000 for emotional distress.

"We don't believe that the facts in this case support the verdict," said Ford corporate communications manager Brad Carroll. "Ford is committed to creating an environment that promotes diversity and inclusion within our workforce and communities."

One of the managers named in the lawsuit, Bennie Fowler, was listed in an October announcement detailing several executives due to retire. Another supervisor, Jay Zhou, is still at Ford as a technical leader for quality.