About three weeks ago, Mr. Stephen Ben-Naimah filed a lawsuit alleging discrimination and retaliation against his former employer, the Missouri Department of Corrections.
Mr. Ben-Naimah was a Probation & Parole Assistant with the Department. He alleges that his supervisor would often make remarks to him about needing to put on his "African learning brain", while coworkers would often call him a "mass murderer."
In addition to these clearly offensive comments, Mr. Ben-Naimah also was harassed by his supervisor and coworkers would discard his applications for transfer or promotion. Additionally, at the direction of his supervisor a coworker began investigating Mr. Ben-Naimah in an attempt to discredit him in connection with his application for U.S. citizenship.
It is also noted that these discriminatory actions were reported by Mr. Ben-Naimah to "regularly reported" directly to the Department of Corrections. However, it is alleged that the Department failed to take any action designed to properly and quickly remediate the problems. In other words, the DOC did nothing to prevent the further discriminatory behavior from occurring.
Ultimately, the Department fired Mr. Ben-Naimah for reasons which he believes are unfounded and pretextual. It is alleged in the lawsuit that he was fired as retaliation for his having repeatedly reported the violations of the federal Equal Employment laws and the Missouri Human Rights Act.
What Does Ben-Naimah Need to Prove?
In order to prevail on his claims of racial discrimination, national origin discrimination and retaliation Mr. Ben-Naimah will need to show that the actions and comments of his supervisor and coworkers were motivated by his race and national origin. Specifically, with respect to the actions of his supervisor Ben-Naimah must produce evidence showing that:
(1) he is a member of a protected class; (2) he was subjected to unwelcome racial and national original based harassment; (3) his race and national origin were motivating factors in the harassment; and (4) the harassment affected a term, condition, or privilege of his employment.
Being Black and from Liberia are obviously classes protected by the equal employment laws. Mr. Ben-Naimah's applications for transfer and promotion were discarded by co-workers preventing Mr. Ben-Naimah from having an equal opportunity.
Additionally, the harassment in the form of comments and the actions taken by his supervisor, including ordering an investigation for the sole purpose of disqualifying Mr. Ben-Naimah from U.S. citizenship, could be viewed by a reasonable person to be "so intimidating, offensive and hostile that they poisoned the work environment and that the workplace was permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult."
With respect to his coworkers' actions, Mr. Ben-Naimah gave the DOC plenty of notice and opportunity to address the problem and to take the necessary actions to ensure that it did not continue. Mr. Ben-Naimah must show both that he gave notice and show that the DOC failed to act.
In addition to the allegations of discrimination, Mr. Ben-Naimah also alleges that he was fired as a result of his having reported the violations to the DOC. In order to be successful at trial on a claim of retaliation, Mr. Ben-Naimah will need to show that he was engaged in protected activity, i.e. his reporting violations of the equal employment laws to his employer; and that as a direct result, he suffered damages, i.e. he was fired.
Ultimately, it appears that proving that these actions were motivated by his race and national origin will be the determining factor in this, as it is in most cases. More times than not a plaintiff must rely on circumstantial evidence in order to prove the motivating factor was based on a protected class. This is simply the result of most people not being recorded and not putting in writing why they discriminated against someone.
If you are experiencing similar behavior by your coworkers or supervisor and you've reported these violations to your Employer with no results, then you should seek out the advice of an experienced employment discrimination attorney. Anthony Bretz can help you evaluate your case. Contact him today for a free consultation. Don't wait too long or you may lose your opportunity to fight for your rights!